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"  ^tnm  inbnme  poteritnns  talan  birmn,  rjtii  <Spiriia  "&ei  ylenns  sit  ?  .  .  .  $nm- 
qtttb  sapunttownt  et  con&imUem  tut  tnbenire  patera?     %•&  etis  svyet  bomnm 
,  <rt  ab  t«t  otis  impmtnn  functus  populus  obcbiet." — GEN.  XLI.  38-40. 



M.  H.  GILL  &  SON,  DUBLIN. 

1888.    r-\/    i  » r  r  •  •? 


OCT  -  7  1953 

"  SPEND  your  life  in  honouring  St.  Joseph,  and  your  love  and  homage 
will  never  equal  the  love  and  homage  paid  to  him  by  Mary  ;  it  will 
approach  never  so  distantly  to  the  obedience,  the  love,  the  homage 
paid  to  him  for  thirty  years  on  earth  by  the  Son  of  God.  But  in 
proportion  as  your  heart  grows  towards  him  in  the  reverence  and 
unbounded  confidence  of  a  son  will  you  trace  in  your  soul  a  more 
faithful  copy  of  the  Incarnate  Word."—  Letter  on  JUevotion  to  St. 
Joseph,  by  Herbert,  Bishop  of  Salford,  1877. 


THIS  is  a  composite  work,  constructed  with  mate- 
rials gathered  from  various  quarters,  principally  from 
the  dissertation  of  Don  Antonio  Vitali,  Canon  of 

the  Basilica  of  San  Lorenzo  in  Damaso  at  Home, 


entitled  Vita  e  Glorie  del  Gran  'Fcftriarca  S.  Giuseppe, 
Sposo  Purissimo  di  Maria,  Padre  Putativo  di  Gesu,  e 
Patrono  Potentissimo  delta  Cattolica  Chiesa,  1883.  To 
him,  therefore,  special  acknowledgments  are  due, 
not  only  for  the  valuable  contributions  to  the  present 
work  which  his  volume  has  supplied,  but  for  the 
permission  to  make  free  use  of  the  product  of  his 
labours.  The  early  chapters,  extending  to  the  birth 
of  Joseph,  are,  indeed,  almost  a  literal  translation 
of  his  work.  Subsequently,  his  materials  have  been 
largely  used,  sometimes  verbally,  at  other  times  only 
substantially,  but  with  frequent  omissions  and  re- 

Much  use  has  also  been  made  of  a  Spanish  work 
by  P.  Josef  Moreno,  of  the  Minor  Clergy  of  the 
House  of  the  Holy  Spirit  at  Seville,"  entitled  Dis- 
cursos  sobre  las  Virtudes  y  Privilegios  de  S.  Josef, 
1788.  It  professes  *to  be  taken  from  the  French ; 
but,  if  the  idea  or  the  groundwork  of  the  compila-' 


tion  be  as  represented-,  its  genius  and  spirit  are 
indubitably  Spanish ;  being  characterised  throughout 
by  that  gravity,  solidity,  and  depth  which  so  espe- 
cially distinguishes  the  theologians  of  Spain.  To 
this  work,  which  is  both  highly  instructive  and  emi- 
nently suggestive,  the  present  writer  is  indebted, 
not  only  for  large  portions  of  several  chapters  of 
the  book,  but  for  eight  of  the  more  important  among 
them,  including  those  on  the  Subjection  of  Jesus, 
the  Paternity  and  Offices  of  Joseph,  his  Interior 
Life,  and  the  Glory  of  his  Soul  and  Body  in  Heaven ; 
all  which  are  especially  calculated  to  deepen  our 
conceptions  of  the  dignity  and  sanctity  of  the  great 
Patriarch.  But  here,  as  generally  throughout  the 
volume,  he  has  not  always  adopted  the  author's 
language  or  the  form  in  which  he  expresses  himself, 
but  has  rather  digested  and  developed  the  truths 
he  has  propounded. 

Occasional  recourse  has  likewise  been  had  to  the 
Vita  di  S.  Giuseppe  by  the  Kev.  Vincenzo  de  Vit, 
1868,  which  is  valuable  for  the  general  justness  and 
discrimination  of  its  views. 

Passages  from  the  visions  and  revelations  of  saints 
and  holy  contemplatives — St.  Bridget,  Sister  Maria 
de  Agreda,  and  others — have  been  interwoven  with 
the  narrative,  simply  in  the  way  of  illustration,  and 
not  as  being  invested  with  authority,  except  in  the 
sense  in  which,  after  due  examination,  they  have 
been  favoured  with  ecclesiastical  approval :  namely, 
as  containing  nothing  contrary  to  faith  and  morals, 


and  affording  pious  and  profitable  helps  to  medita- 

Finally,  observations  and  reflections  have  been 
introduced  as  occasion  offered  which  were  suggested 
by  various  authors  whose  works  have  been  consulted, 
or  which  occurred  to  the  writer's  own  mind  from 
consideration  of  the  materials  before  him. 

It  is  no  uncommon  idea,  even  among  Catholics, 
that  the  devotion  paid  to  St.  Joseph  and  the  lofty 
estimate  of  his  prerogatives  now  prevailing  in  the 
Church  are  innovations  of  comparatively  modern 
date,  and  that  they  have  no  precedent  or  sanction 
in  antiquity.  But  this  is  far  from  being  the  case. 
In  the  writings  of  the  ancient  Fathers  are  to  be 
found,  not  only  what  may  be  called  prolific  germs, 
but  also  positive  and  explicit  statements  of  doc- 
trine, which  sufficiently  show  how  deep  in  the  con- 
sciousness of  the  Church  lay  the  belief  of  Joseph's 
exalted  dignity  and  sanctity,  and  how  definite  a 
shape  it  had  assumed  even  in  the  early  ages.  The 
devotion  paid  to  him  has,  it  is  true,  been  much  more 
distinctly  formulated  in  later  centuries,  when  his 
place  in  the  celestial  hierarchy  came  to  be  more 
fully  recognised ;  but  from  the  first  this  great  Saint 
had  a  peculiar  attraction  for  many  holy  and  gifted 
souls,  who  regarded  him  with  singular  veneration 
and  affection,  as  the  citations  given  abundantly 

The   Church   brings   out   of  her  treasury  things 

Vlll  ST.    JOSEPH. 

both  old  and  new,  according  as  the  exigencies  of 
the  time  require ;  and  this  is  especially  true  of  the 
devotions  which  have  arisen  from  age  to  age  and 
have  received  her  ready  sanction,  or,  rather,  have 
been  joyfully  welcomed  and  embraced  as  the  fulfil- 
ment of  her  heart's  desire.  <Thus,  the  devotion  to 
our  Blessed  Lady,  though  dating  from  Apostolic 
times,  received  a  powerful  impulse  at  the  Council  of 
Ephesus,  where  the  dogma  of  the  Divine  Maternity 
was  proclaimed  in  opposition  to  the  heresy  of  Nes- 
torius ;  and,  among  other  instances,  may  be  men- 
tioned the  ardent  devotion  to  the  Holy  Places, 
which  resulted  in  the  Crusades ;  the  public  and 
solemn  adoration  of  the  Blessed  Sacrament,  which 
found  its  satisfaction  in  the  Feast  of  Corpus  Christi 
and  the  Bite  of  Benediction  ;  and,  at  later  epochs, 
the  devotion  to  the  Sacred  Heart  and  to  the  several 
mysteries  of  the  Passion  in  all  their  pathetic  details  : 
the  Five  Wounds,  the  Precious  Blood,  &c. ;  and,  in 
our  own  days,  renewed  devotion  to  the  Adorable 
Face  of  our  Lord.  But  what  is  most  remarkable 
about  the  devotion  to  St.  Joseph  is  that,  after  cen- 
turies of  obscurity  and  apparent  oblivion,  it  received 
a  sudden  and  mighty  impulse,  which  carried  it,  as 
it  were,  at  a  bound  into  the  hearts  of  the  Christian 
populations  and  disseminated  and  planted  it  in  every 
clime.  Or,  rather,  we  may  say  that  the  breath  of 
God's  Holy  Spirit  quickened  into  life  and  energy 
the  devotion  which  lay,  as  it  were,  dormant  and  pas- 
sive in  the  hearts  of  the  faithful,  and  rapidly  stirred 


the  smouldering  fire  into  a  blaze.  Some  account  of 
this  extraordinary  movement  and  expansion  is  given 
in  the  concluding  chapters  of  the  work. 

If  to  some  it  may  be  matter  of  surprise  that  saints 
and  doctors  should  have  written  and  discoursed  so 
largely  and  so  eloquently  respecting  one  of  whom  it 
might  appear  scant  notice  is  taken  in  the  Gospels, 
and  of  whom  no  single  word  spoken  by  him  has 
been  recorded  ;  that  a  voluminous  theology  should 
have  grouped  itself  around  him  ;  and  that  he  should 
have  been  proposed  by  the  Holy  See  to  the  venera- 
tion and  devotion  of  the  faithful  as  Patron  and  Guar- 
dian of  the  Universal  Church — this  can  only  be 
because  they  have  never  sufficiently  considered  what 
was  Joseph's  position  in  the  economy  of  redemption ; 
and  it  may  safely  be  affirmed  that  the  more  they 
realise  that  position,  and  the  more  they  study  him 
in  his  several  aspects,  as  presented  in  Holy  Writ, 
the  more  will  his  grandeurs  open  upon  them  and 
the  deeper  and  the  higher  will  be  their  thoughts 
about  him.  For  who,  in  fact,  was  St.  Joseph?  and 
what  were  the  offices  he  filled,  and  the  privileges 
he  enjoyed  ?  He  was  predestined  to  be  the  virgin 
spouse  of  the  Virgin  Mother  of  the  Son  of  God,  and 
to  be  His  and  her  guardian  and  protector;  he  was 
the  chosen  minister  of  the  counsels  of  the  Most 
High  in  the  mystery  of  the  Incarnation  ;  he  was  for 
years  the  habitual  companion  both  of  Mary  and  of 
Jesus  ;  he  bore  the  Divine  Child  constantly  in  his 
arms,  lovingly  caressed  Him,  and  received  His 

•x:  ST.  JOSEPH. 

caresses  in  return  ;  to  him,  as  to  His  Blessed 
Mother,  Jesus  was  subject  in  the  house  and  work- 
shop of  Nazareth  ;  he  was  as  a  father  and  a  tutor 
to  Him  ;  he  was  the  daily  witness  of  His  hidden 
life,  and  heard  the  sacred  words  that  fell  from  His 
lips,  all  through  His  boyhood,  youth,  and  early  man- 
hood ;  and  he  had  the  unspeakable  blessedness  of 
dying  in  His  embrace.  But  further  :  with  this  sub- 
lime vocation  and  these  incomparable  privileges  the 
graces  and  virtues  of  Joseph  fully  corresponded ;  his 
merits  were  commensurate  with  his  dignity ;  and 
therefore  it  is  that  he  ranks  next  to  Mary  in  the 
Court  of  Heaven  and  is  seated  in  glory  so  nigh  unto 
the  throne  of  the  Incarnate  Word. 

But  again :  there  is  another  and  a  fundamental 
Christian  doctrine,  the  disregard  or  imperfect  recog- 
nition of  which  lies  at  the  root  of  the  difficulty  enter- 
tained respecting  the  position  and  power  of  Joseph 
in  Heaven,  as  also  respecting  that  of  his  Immaculate 
Spouse.  It  is  this — that  our  Blessed  Lord  is  as  truly 
Man  now  that  He  is  seated  in  Heaven  at  the  right 
hand  of  the  Father  as  He  was  when  He  trod  the 
streets  of  Jerusalem  and  the  ways  of  Galilee.  The 
Incarnate  God,  enthroned  in  His  majesty  on  high,  is 
still  our  Brother-Man.  Nothing,  indeed,  is  more  re- 
markable than  our  Lord's  solicitude  (so  to  say)  after 
He  had  risen  from  the  dead,  not  only  to  prove  His 
identity  to  His  disciples,  but  to  convince  them  of 
His  possession  of  the  full  attributes  of  man.  "  See 
My  Hands  and  Feet,"  He  said,  "  that  it  is  I  Myself" ; 


nay  more:  "handle  and  see;  for  a  spirit  hath  not 
flesh  and  bones,  as  you  see  Me  to  have  "  ;  and  then 
He  took  and  ate  before  them.1  But  not  only  so:  it 
seemed  as  though  He  wished  to  impress  upon  them 
the  fact  that  the  relationship  which  He  had  assumed 
with  men  remained,  not  merely  unbroken,  but,  as  it 
were,  sealed  and  enhanced,  now  that  He  was  about 
to  ascend  into  the  Heaven  of  Heavens.  The  words 
He  spoke  to  St.  Mary  Magdalen  immediately  after 
His  Resurrection  :  "  Go  to  My  brethren,  and  say  to 
them,  I  ascend  to  My  Father  and  to  your  Father,  to 
My  God  and  your  God  "  2 — words  differing  in  their 
solemn  emphasis  and  expression  from  any  which  He 
had  heretofore  used — seem  to  have  been  uttered  to 
this  end.  Thus,  being  ever  perfect  Man  as  well  as 
perfect  God,  as  He  had  a  mother  and  a  foster-father 
on  earth,  so  now  in  Heaven  Mary  is  still  His  mother 
and  Joseph  retains  the  honoured  name  of  father. 
The  ties  of  their  human  relationship  still  endure,  and 
will  endure  for  ever.  Hence  the  dignity  of  Joseph 
and  the  power  of  his  intercession.  His  Foster-Child 
is  the  Almighty  and  Adorable  God. 

Many  books  of  devotion  to  St.  Joseph  have  been 
written  in  many  languages  ;  indeed,  the  literature 
dedicated  to  him  may  be  said  to  form  a  library  of 
itself.  The  object  of  the  present  work  is,  not  only 
to  increase  and  stimulate  that  devotion,  but  to  ex- 
hibit the  theological  basis  on  which  it  rests,  and  to 
show  how  great  is  the  amount  of  authority  and  how 

1  St.  Luke  xxiv.  39,  42,  43.  2  St.  John  xx.  17. 

Xll  ST.    JOSEPH. 

strong  are  the  intrinsic  reasons  for  holding  that  a 
profound  and  solid  reality  of  heavenly  origin  under- 
lies the  dignity  and  office  to  which  the  husband  of 
Mary  and  foster-father  of  Jesus  was  elected.  The 
chapters  on  the  -Paternity  and  Offices  of  Joseph, 
which  are  drawn  (as  has  been  said)  from  P.  Moreno's 
work,  may  be  particularly  mentioned  as  having  been 
composed  with  this  intention. 

And  now,  humbly  kneeling  at  the  feet  of  this 
great  Patriarch  and  most  powerful  Saint,  solitary 
in  his  grandeur  as  in  his  endowments,  the  writer 
implores  his  blessing  on  a  work  devoted  to  his 
honour ;  not  only  for  the  exaltation  of  that  honour 
among  men,  but  for  the  glory  of  his  Immaculate 
Spouse,  and,  supremely,  for  the  glory  of  Him  the 
companion  and  guardian  of  whose  Childhood  he  was 
ordained  to  be,  and  to  whom,  indeed,  he  owes  his 
incomparable  dignity  and  his  very  being — the  Eternal 
Son  of  the  Eternal  Father  made  Man  for  us  and  for 
our  salvation. 

For  the  satisfaction  of  the  reader  it  is  desirable 
to  state  that  the  work  has  been  carefully  revised  by 
a  most  competent  theologian  in  its  progress  through 
the  press. 


Feast  of  the  Patronage  of  St.  Joseph,  1888. 


PREFACE    ...        .......        page  v 



Joseph  indissolubly  associated  with  Jesus  and  Mary.  The  eternal 
decree.  Its  mode  of  accomplishment  included  therein.  Joseph 
predestined  to  his  office.  The  ground  of  all  his  greatness  page  1 



Divers  orders  in  the  hierarchy  of  grace.  The  highest  that  of  the 
Hypostatic  Union.  Joseph  has  place  in  this  order.  The  doctrine 
no  mere  private  opinion.  Conclusions  of  theologians.  Joseph's 
exalted  honour.  His  pre-eminence  over  all  saints.  His  superiority 
to  the  angels.  Head  of  the  Holy  Family.  Representative  of  the 
Eternal  Father.  His  graces  commensurate  with  his  dignity.  Our 
interest  therein  .  pagu  5 



Abundance  of  Scripture  evidence.  Joseph  prefigured  by  the  patriarch 
of  the  Old  Testament.  Patristic  testimonies.  Decree  of  the  Holy 
See.  Joseph  prefigured  in  name.  In  parentage.  In  superiority 
of  grace  and  merits.  In  the  patriarch's  government  of  Putiphar's 
house.  In  his  exaltation  at  the  court  of  Pharao.  In  the  honours 
paid  him •  •  pageU 




His  clemency  prefigured  in  the  patriarch's  provision  for  the  people. 
In  his  treatment  of  his  brethren.  Pharao's  injunction  to  obey 
his  Viceroy.  Like  obedience  required  for  obtaining  Joseph's 
favour.  He  is  prefigured  by  Eliezer  and  Mardochai.  In  many 
other  persons  and  forms.  St.  Francis  de  Sales's  application  of  a 
passage  in  the  Canticles  ......  page  21 



Nobility  of  birth  a  boon  from  God.  Joseph  no  ignoble  artisan.  Great- 
ness of  his  ancestry.  Last  link  in  the  Messianic  genealogy.  His 
genealogy  that  of  Mary  and  Jesus  ....  page  29 



Contradiction  between  St.  Matthew  and  St.  Luke  impossible.  The  two 
genealogies  mutually  reconcilable.  One  the  natural,  the  other  the 
legal  genealogy.  Two  different  opinions  among  theologians.  The 
second  the  more  eligible.  Heli  identified  with  Joachim.  Junction 
of  the  two  lines.  Glory  accruing  to  Joseph  .  .  page  34 



Other  saints  sanctified  before  birth.  Joseph  entitled  to  priority.  This 
privilege  befitting  his  place  and  office.  His  sanctification  a 
special  object  of  the  Divine  Goodness.  Two  ways  in  which  his 
sanctification  before  birth  might  be  effected.  Opinion  of  some 
pious  writers  that  Joseph  was  preserved  from  the  stain  of 
original  sin.  The  doctrine  commonly  approved  by  doctors  of  the 
Church,  that  he  was  sanctified  from  the  first  moments  of  his  life. 
This  grace  befitting  the  reputed  father  of  Jesus  and  the  spouse  of 
His  Virgin  Mother.  The  doctrine  generally  held  and  believed 

page  41 


Concupiscence  the  penalty  of  sin.  Joseph  entitled  to  speedy  libera- 
tion therefrom.  This  special  grace  befitted  his  sublime  ministry, 


as  also  his  superiority  over  angels  and  saints.  Declarations  of 
theologians  and  doctors  thereon.  P.  Segneri's  panegyric  of  St. 
Joseph.  Emphatic  statements  of  Suarez  and  Cartagena.  Con- 
clusion drawn  by  Benedict  XIV.  Our  Lord's  .words  respecting  St. 
John  Baptist  not  opposed  to  Joseph's  pre-eminence  .  page  48 



Joseph  compared  to  the  white  light  of  dawn.  The  precursor  of  Mary, 
the  Aurora,  and  of  Jesus,  the  Sun  of  Justice.  In  what  sense  he 
belonged  to  the  Old  Law  and  in  what  to  the  New.  The  Church 
has  always  regarded  and  venerated  him  as  her  own.  He  opened 
the  gates  of  the  Christian  dispensation  and  closed  those  of  the 
Mosaic  .  . page  58 



In  Joseph  all  the  virtues  of  his  progenitors  were  combined  and  per- 
fected. In  him  all  the  promises  made  to  the  Patriarchs  were 
fulfilled.  Little  before  the  world,  he  was  great  in  the  eyes  of 
God.  Mary's  descent  from  David.  Name  of  Joseph's  mother 
not  recorded.  Question  as  to  the  month  in  which  he  was  born. 
Wednesday  honoured  as  his  day.  Four  claimants  for  his  birth- 
place. Bethlehem's  claim  indisputable.  Visit  in  spirit  to  his 
cradle page  62 



The  birth  of  saints  a  cause  of  rejoicing.  The  Blessed  Trinity  glorified 
in  Joseph.  His  birth  a  source  of  gladness  to  the  angels.  Joseph 
inferior  to  them  in  nature,  but  superior  in  dignity.  In  what 
sense  he  needed  their  guardianship.  Many  angels  appointed  to 
attend  upon  him.  These  ministering  spirits  employed  by  Joseph 
in  the  service  of  mankind.  His  birth  a  joy  to  the  souls  in 
Limbo page  72 



His  birth  a  joy  to  his  parents.     His  name  not  accidental.     Reasons 
for  believing  it  was  bestowed  on  him  by  God.     Its  deep  significa- 
tion.    A  name  of  power  and  benediction    .         .         .        page  78 




Joseph  a  first-born  son.  His  presentation  in  the  Temple.  Jerusalem 
under  Roman  domination.  Joseph  brought  to  the  Paschal  solem- 
nity. Jerusalem  the  abode  of  Joachim  and  Anne.  The  sceptre 
departs  from  Juda.  Fears  inspired  by  Herod.  His  cruelties  and 
crimes.  Joseph  brought  up  amidst  anxieties  and  perils.  His 
hidden  life.  His  brother  Cleophas.  Joseph  no  illiterate  mechanic. 
Learned  in  the  science  of  the  saints  and  in  the  mysteries  of  God 

page  82 


His  espousals  with  Mary  a  sufficient  proof.  Testimonies  of  the  Fathers. 
The  doctrine  taught  by  St.  Thomas  and  St.  Francis  de  Sales. 
Asserted  by  the  Bollandists.  Argument  drawn  from  the  analogy 
of  the  Earthly  to  the  Heavenly  Trinity.  From  Joseph's  place  in 
the  order  of  the  Hypostatic  Union.  From  his  being  the  repre- 
sentative on  earth  of  the  Eternal  Father.  From  his  superiority 
to  the  angels.  Joseph  the  first  to  make  a  vow  of  virginity.  Its 
source  in  a  special  grace  and  in  the  Saint's  humility.  Joseph  to 
be  congratulated  and  invoked  .....  page  89 



Import  of  the  term  "just".  Joseph  faithful  in  his  duty  to  God  ;  to 
his  'neighbour  ;  and  to  himself.  Singularly  and  pre-eminently 
just.  He  precedes  the  Just  One.  False  inferences  from  his  exer- 
cising a  trade.  His  state  in  life  neither  mean  nor  contemptible. 
Explanation  of  the  language  used  by  his  fellow-townsmen.  His 
employment  that  of  Jesus  Himself.  His  motive  in  embracing  a 
life  of  toil.  His  love  of  poverty.  His '  occupation  that  of  a 
carpenter.  Testimonies  thereto.  Joseph  the  patron  and  pro- 
tector of  working-men.  His  profound  humility  .  page  94 



Joseph's  vow  divinely  rewarded.  His  residence  in  Jerusalem.  His 
intimate  association  with  Joachim  and  Anne.  They  are  reproached 
for;  their  sterility.  Mary's  immaculate  conception.  Her  use  of 
reason  before  birth.  Her  nativity.  She  is  offered  to  God  in  the 
Temple.  Her  presentation  and  abode  therein.  Testimonies 
thereto page  103 




Mary's  vow  of  virginity.  Its  transcendent  merit.  Estimation  of 
virginity  among  Hebrews  and  pagans.  Mary's  life  in  the  Temple 
both  active  and  contemplative.  Marvels  related  of  her.  Mary  a 
world  in  herself ;  Joseph's  consequent  dignity  and  graces.  Simi- 
larity between  him  and  Mary.  Testimonies  to  this.  Joseph's 
perfection  implied  in  his  being  chosen  as  husband  of  Mary 

page  108 



Joseph  chosen  by  God  to  be  the  spouse  of  Mary.  Their  marriage 
the  most  perfect  of  unions.  The  Synagogue  employed  to  effect  it. 
Solicitude  of  the  priests  to  provide  Mary  with  a  spouse  worthy  of 
her.  Her  silence  concerning  her  vow  of  virginity.  Many  claim- 
ants of  the  alliance.  Joseph  not  of  the  number ;  he  is  selected  for 
•  his  merits page  116 



The  testimony  of  God  to  Joseph's  merits.  Blossoming  of  his  rod. 
Traditions  on  the  subject.  Joseph's  knowledge  of  Mary's  vow. 
Her  consent  deliberate  and  free.  Her  choice  of  Joseph.  The  high 
encomium  implied  therein.  Mary  gave  him  her  heart.  The  two 
one  in  spirit  and  life.  Illustrations  of  this.  Mary's  fiat  the  seal 
of  her  consent.  Period  of  two  months  between  the  betrothal  and 
the  espousals page  123 


JOSEPH'S    AGE    AT    THE    TIME    OF    THE    ESPOUSALS.        HIS     PERSONAL 

His  advanced  age  neither  credible  nor  fitting.  Testimony  of  ancient 
sculptures  and  paintings  opposed  thereto.  He  was  probably  of 
mature  age.  The  relative  value  of  arguments  drawn  from  monu- 
ments and  those  which  rest  on  reasons  of  suitability.  Motives  for 
representing  St.  Joseph  as  an  aged  man.  Representations  of  his 
extreme  youth  a  protest  against  apocryphal  fables.  The  testi- 
mony of  St.  Justin  Martyr  to  Joseph's  personal  appearance. 
Private  revelations  on  the  subject.  Description  of  the  Blessed 
Virgin.  Her  nuptial  robe  and  ring  .  .  .  •  page  132 




Mary's  one  scene  of  pomp  upon  earth.  Mary  and  Joseph  renew  their 
vows  of  virginity.  Remarks  of  St.  Francis  de  Sales.  Motive  of 
the  renewal.  An  example  to  all  ages.  The  marriage  of  Mary  and 
Joseph  a  true  and  valid  marriage.  Their  previous  vow  of  virginity 
110  bar  to  their  union.  Their  subsequent  vow  no  derogation  from 
its  validity.  Reasons  why  the  Mother  of  Jesus  should  be  married. 
The  marriage  no  obscuration  of  the  virginity  either  of  Mary  or  of 
Joseph's  true  title  to  pre-eminence  .  .  page  142 



Joseph's  virtues  henceforth  destined  to  be  known.  He  and  Mary  leave 
Jerusalem  for  Nazareth.  Distribution  of  their  goods.  Joseph 
recognised  by  Mary  as  her  head.  The  Holy  House.  Mary's 
domestic  employments.  Modesty  and  simplicity  of  the  house- 
hold. What  our  Lady  said  to  St.  Bridget  respecting  Joseph. 
His  reverence,  love,  and  devotion  to  Mary.  Her  love  and  rever- 
ence for  Joseph.  St.  Leonard's  panegyric  on  the  Spouse  of  Mary. 
The  blessings  derived  by  Joseph  from  her  society.  Extract  from 
the  Conference  of  St.  Francis  de  Sales.  Effects  on  Joseph  of 
knowing  himself  to  be  the  spouse  of  one  so  holy  and  exalted 

page  152 



Mary  and  Joseph  supremely  rewarded  for  their  love  of  virginity. 
Gabriel  sent  to  the  Virgin-Spouse  of  Joseph.  The  event  an- 
nounced to  the  heavenly  hosts.  Mary  rapt  in  prayer.  Gabriel's 
glorious  ingress.  Mankind  to  be  no  longer  under  the  rule  of 
angels.  Mary  full  of  grace  and  truly  blessed.  Why  she  was 
.  troubled  at  the  angel's  salutation.  Two  great  truths  included  in 
Gabriel's  words.  The  Incarnation  dependent  on  Mary's  consent. 
By  her  fiat  the  world  is  saved page  164 



Mary's  prevision  of  the  sufferings  of  Jesus.  Her  motives  for  not 
imparting  her  secret  to  Joseph.  She  communicates  to  him  the 
angel's  intimation  respecting  Elizabeth.  The  object  of  Mary's 
visit  to  her  cousin.  Reasons  for  concluding  that  Joseph  accom- 


panied  her.  The  contrary  opinion  inadmissible.  Testimonies  of 
saints  and  doctors.  Question  as  to  the  city  in  which  Zachary  and 
Elizabeth  abode page  176 



How  Elizabeth  was  Mary's  cousin.  Their  mutual  salutations.;  their 
employments.  Reasons  for  believing  Joseph  to  have  prolonged 
his  stay  in  Zachary's  house  till  Mary's  departure  ;  and  that  Mary 
remained  till  after  Elizabeth's  delivery.  Testimonies  of  saints 
and  doctors  thereto.  Answers  to  two  objections.  The  birth  and 
circumcision  of  John.  Return  to  Nazareth  .  .  page  185 



Renewal  of  labours  and  charities.  Increase  of  divine  favours  accorded 
to  Mary.  Secret  influences  experienced  by  Joseph.  His  discovery 
of  Mary's  pregnancy.  Effects  produced  on  his  mind  thereby. 
Different  views  entertained  by  the  Fathers.  The  Espousals 
anterior  to  the  angel's  appearance  to  Joseph.  Meaning  of  the 
term  rendered  "to  put  her  away  ".  Import  of  the  epithet  "  just " 
as  applied  to  Joseph.  His  motives  for  leaving  Mary.  General 
agreement  of  Fathers  and  Doctors  on  the  subject  .  page  192 



Mary's  silence  and  patience.  Joseph  speedily  delivered  from  his  distress. 
The  angel's  address  to  him.  His  tranquillising  words.  Their  true 
signification.  Joseph's  reflections  on  awaking.  Analogy  between 
Mary's  election  and  that  of  Joseph.  Renewal  of  their  holy  contest. 
Joseph's  demeanour  as  head  of  the  Holy  Family  .  page  203 



Concurrence  of  the  Blessed  Trinity  in  the  angelic  message  to  Joseph. 
He  was,  in  a  sense,  true  father  of  Jesus.  The  model  on  which  the 
Sacred  Humanity  was  formed.  Adopted  as  His  father  by  the  Son 
of  God.  Treated  as  such  by  Him.  His  paternity  the  reward  of 
his  merits.  Implied  in  his  being  the  husband  of  Mary,  and  the 
son  of  David.  Witness  of  the  New  Testament  genealogies  there- 


to.  Implied  further  in  Joseph's  marital  rights.  Mary's  conces- 
sion to  him  of  a  share  in  her  rights.  Joseph  substituted  by  the 
Holy  Ghost  as  her  visible  spouse.  His  paternity  recognised  and 
honoured  in  Heaven  .  .  ...  .  .  page  209 



Mary's  desire  to  obey  and  serve  her  spouse.  Joseph's  grief  thereat  ; 
his  acquiescence  in  the  will  of  God".  Revelations  of  the'life  in  the 
Holy  House.  Homage  paid  by  angels  and  by  the  animal  creation 
to  its  inmates.  Their  boundless  charity  and  liberality.  Their 
poverty  and  want.  The  prophecy  of  Micheas  ;  its  fulfilment  left 
by  them  to  God.  The  edict  of  Augustus.  Joseph's  solicitude  for 
Mary.  Honour  paid  in  Scripture  to  the  ass.  Journey  to  Bethle- 
hem ;  trials  of  the  way.  Names  enrolled.  Shelter  everywhere 
denied.  Mary's  serenity,  Joseph's  anguish  .  .  page  223 



The  cave  in  the  rock.  Outside  the  town.  Its  solitude  and  seclusion. 
Presence  of  angels.  Joseph's  supernatural  trance.  Mary  ravished 
in  ecstasy.  Her  delivery.  Jesus  shown  to  her  in  glorified  form. 
Colloquy  of  Mother  and  Child,  as  symbolised  in  the  Canticles. 
Joseph's  first  sight  of  Jesus.  Homage  paid  by  the  ox  and 
the  ass.  Traditions  of  other  miraculous  occurrences  page  235 



Joseph's  assumption  of  the  prerogatives  of  paternity.  The  immensity 
of  the  dignity.  His  relation  to  the  Universal  Church.  Construc- 
tion of  the  .cradle.  Appearance  of  angels  to  shepherds.  Why 
they  were  thus  favoured.  The  heavenly  light  noticed  only  by 
them.  Gabriel  the  Angel  of  the  Incarnation.  Visit  of  the  shep- 
herds to  the  cave.  Not  their  only  visit.  Traditions  and  memorials 
of  them.  Abode  of  the  Holy  Family  in  the  cave.  Tradition 
respecting  the  Probatic  Pool.  The  Circumcision.  Joseph  the 
minister  of  the  rite.  He  bestows  the  name  of  Jesus  page  245 



The  Epiphany  always  a  joyous  mystery  to  the  descendants  of  the  Gen- 
tiles. Question  as  to  who  the  Magi  were.  Kings,  and  three 


in  number.  Their  names.  The  motive  of  their  journey.  The 
star  of  prophecy.  Their  reception  at  Jerusalem.  Guided  by  the 
star  to  Bethlehem.  The  stable  the  scene  of  their  adoration. 
Joseph  present  thereat.  Their  stay  probably  prolonged.  Their 
further  history  and  relics page  258 



Mary's  submission  to  the  Law.  Departure  from  Bethlehem.  Joseph's 
reliance  011  God's  protection.  Mary's  rest  under  a  terebinth.  The 
journey  to  Jerusalem  an  august  procession.  Simeon  enlightened 
by  the  Holy  Ghost.  His  twofold  prediction.  Testimony  of  Anna 
the  Prophetess.  The  purification  of  Mary.  She  makes  the  offer- 
ing of  the  poor.  Jesus  borne  into  the  Court  of  the  Priests.  Un- 
worthiness  of  the  Jewish  priesthood.  The  Presentation.  Departure 
from  the  Temple page  269 



Reasons  assigned  for  postponing  the  visit  of  the  Magi.  The  reason 
drawn  from  the  words  of  St.  Luke  creative  of  new  difficulties.  A 
simple  explanation  confirmed  by  St.  Luke  himself.  Harmony  of 
the  Gospels.  The  reason  drawn  from  the  age  of  the  children 
ordered  to  be  slain  convertible  the  other  way.  The  Grotto  of 
Milk.  Return  of  the  Holy  Family  to  Bethlehem.  The  contrary 
opinion  untenable.  Motive  for  returning.  Incidental  confirma- 
tion derived  from  the  words  of  St.  Matthew.  Jesus  a  Nazaritc 

page  280 



Joseph  warned  to  fly  into  Egypt  with  the  Child  and  His  Mother. 
This  office  most  honourable  to  him.  Ratifies  his  title  of  father. 
The  warning  given,  not  to  Mary,  but  to  Joseph,  as  head  of  the 
Holy  Family.  Reasons  why  Egypt  was  chosen  as  the  place  of 
refuge.  Joseph's  unquestioning  obedience.  The  Holy  Family 
guided  by  angels.  They  pass  by  Hebron.  Slaughter  of  the  babes. 
Its  extent.  The  Innocents  true  martyrs.  Relics  of  them  collected 
by  St.  Helen page  287 



The  road  taken  by  the  Holy  Family.  They  are  sheltered  by  robbers. 
Supported  by  angels.  They  visit  various  places.  Destruction  of 
temples  and  idols.  Consternation  among  the  Egyptians.  Joseph 
an  Apostle  to  them..  Temple  of  the  Sun  at  Heliopolis.  Conver- 
sion of  Aphrodisius  the  high  priest.  Abode  at  Matarieh.  Tradi- 
tions respecting  the  Blessed  Yirgin.  Pious  act  of  the  Empress 
Eugenie page  298 



Reasons  why  he  did  not  accept  the  hospitality  of  Aphrodisius.  Three 
obligations  imposed  on  him.  First,  that  of  providing  Jesus  with 
bodily  sustenance..  Second,  that  of  being  His  preceptor.  Growth 
of  Jesus  in  wisdom,  and  knowledge.  Joseph's  third  office,  that  of 
guardian.  These  obligations  personal  .  .  .  pageSQS 



The  sorrows  of  exile.  Deprivation  of  religious  rites.  The  straits  of 
poverty.  The  seamless  tunic.  Compassion  for  the  babes  of 
Bethlehem  and  their  parents.  Separation  from  relatives.  Death 

.  .  of  Herod.  Question  as  to  the  length  of  the  abode  in  Egypt. 
Why  prolonged.  Mission  of  the  Holy  Family.  Prophecy  of 
Isaias.  The  divine  Apostolate.  Miracles  ascribed  to  the  Infant 
Jesus.  Mary  and  her  holy  spouse  Apostles  to  the  heathen. 
Appearance  of  angel  to  Joseph  in  sleep ;  import  of  his  words. 
Departure  from  Egypt.  Joseph's  fears.  He  is  again  visited  by  an 
angel  .  .  .  ...  .  .  .  .  page  318 



Herod  Antipas.  Why  Jesus  was  called  a  Nazarite.  The  grace  in  His 
Soul.  St.  Luke  instructed  by  the  Blessed  Virgin.  Import  of  his 
language  respecting  Joseph.  Jesus  educated  by  His  parents. 
Observations  of  Vincenzo  de  Vit  thereon.  Imitation  and  curio- 
sity characteristic  of  children.  Instance  of  Jesus  asking  questions 

page  331 

CONTENTS.  xxiii 



Obligation  of  visiting  the  Temple  on  the  three  great  feasts.  The  Child 
Jesns  accompanies  His  parents  at  the  feast  of  the  Pasch.  Remains 
behind  in  Jerusalem.  Why  He  was  not  missed.  His  loss  dis- 
covered at  Machmas.  The  sorrow  of  Joseph  like  that  of  Mary. 
Do  Vit's  mode  of  accounting  for  their  conduct  not  admissible. 
Meaning  of  the  term  "  three  days  ".  Unwearying  search  on  the 
part  of  Mary  and  Joseph.  Jesus  found.  Subject  of  His  discourse 
with  the  Doctors.  His  answer  to  Mary's  remonstrance.  The 
nature  of  His  parents'  ignorance  regarding  it.  He  returns  with 
them  to  Nazareth page  339 



Hidden  life  of  Jesus.  Eighteen  years  spent  in  obedience  to  His  parents. 
This  obedience  His  own  free  choice.  Analogous  to  His  obeying 
the  Mosaic  Law,  and  becoming  man.  He  chose  to  be  dependent 
on  Joseph  as  His  father.  •  This  no  derogation  from  the  super- 
eminence  of  Mary.  Joseph  treated  by  angels  as  head  of  the  Holy 
Family.  His  incomparable  dignity.  Not  shared  by -the  highest 
angels.  Employment  of  Jesus  in  the  workshop  of  Nazareth.  A 
real  subjection.  His  docility  to  His  parents'  will.  Joseph's 
consummate  prudence  and  rectitude.  His  authority  like  that  of 
God.  Extract  from  the  Pastoral  Letter  of  the  Bishop  of  Notting- 
ham .  ....  .  .  ...  page  352 



The  inner  life  the  true  life  of  man.  Joseph's  life  like  that  of  the 
saints  in  Heaven.  Testimony  of  the  Church.  Life  of  the  saints 
in  Heaven  a  life  of  light,  and  love,  and  bliss.  St.  Joseph's  state 
of  ecstasy  and  union  with  God.  Angelic  visitations  made  to  him 
in  sleep  ;  the  import  of  this.  His  continual  contemplation  of 
heavenly  things.  A  single  word  all- comprehensive ;  instances. 
Joseph's  life  one  of  habitual  divine  illumination.  .  page  366 



Two  special  perfections  in  Joseph.     His  prompt  and  unquestioning 
faith.     H<3ly  Scripture  affords  no  equal  example.     Instances  of  its 


marvellous  perfection.  Joseph's  supernatural  wisdom.  Mary's 
confidence  in  his  lights  and  unhesitating  obedience  to  his  direc- 
tions. The  value  of  her  testimony  .  .  .  page  377 



His  silence.  His  largeness  of  hearrt.  His  ever-increasing  love  for  Jesus. 
His  intimate  knowledge  of  dim.  His  toils  and  sufferings  on  His 
account.  His  service  a  service  of  the  spirit.  His  life  an  anticipa- 
tion of  the  bliss  of  Heaven.  Purity  of  soul  necessary  to  its  enjoy- 
ment. Participation  of  his  senses  in  the  joy  of  his  soul.  His  bliss 
on  earth  meritorious.  He  is  favoured  with  revelations  of  the  glory 
of  Jesus.  His  delight  in  the  caresses  of  the  Divine  Infant.  Pro- 
test against  a  false  and  hurtful  idea  of  Joseph's  character.  His 
habitual  state  of  contemplation  no  hindrance  to  his  observance 
of  all  the  humanities  of  life.  His  silence  not  repellent  or 
morose.  His  interior  life  of  bliss  enhanced  his  natural  attrac- 
tiveness   page  384 



Probability  of  its  occurrence  before  our  Lord  entered  on. His  public 
ministry.  Reasons  for  this  belief.  In  what  sense  Jesus  advanced 
in  grace  with  God.  Joseph's  participations  of  grace  larger  than 
that  of  other  saints.  Tradition  as  to  his  retaining  his  powers  in 
old  age.  Instance  of  Moses.  Joseph's  martyrdom  of  love,  and 
vision  of  the  mysteries  of  the  Passion,  Opinions  of  St.  Francis  de 
Sales  and  St.  Alphonsus.  Joseph's  deathbed.  He  is  God's  am- 
bassador to  the  souls  in  Limbo.  Jerusalem  the  place  of  his  decease. 
His  grave  in  the  Valley  of  Josaphat ....  page  398 



His  glory  surpassing  that  of  other  saints.  Testimonies  thereto.  Joseph 
one  of  the  saints  who  arose  after  the  Resurrection.  His  ascent  with 
Christ  into  Heaven.  Revelations  of  saints  and  opinions  of  theo- 
logians respecting  this.  Value  of  Joseph's  testimony  to  the  Resur- 
rection. His  close  union  with  Jesus  a  reason  for  sharing  the  bliss 
of  His  risen  Body.  The  translation  of  the  ancient  patriarch's  body 
a  figure  of  Joseph's  resurrection.  Mary's  desire  of  the  full  comple- 
tion of  his  bliss.  Arguments  drawn  from  the  absence  of  his  relics 


and  the  transportation  of  the  Holy  House.  Miracle  in  confirmation 
of  Joseph's  resurrection.  His  glory  enhanced  by  that  of  Jesus  and 
Marv page  til 



Devotion  to  Joseph  an  obligation  because  willed  by  Jesus  and  Mary. 
Our  Lord's  own  example.  His  desire  of  Joseph's  honour  from  a 
motive  of  justice  to  his  merits.  Joseph's  co-operation  in  the 
salvation  of  men.  Our  Lord's  desire  of  his  honour  from  a  motive 
of  gratitude.  Examples  of  His  requital  of  services  when  on  earth. 
Joseph's  paternal  love  for  us.  Mary's  desire  of  his  honour.  Her 
revelations  to  saints.  She  appears  in  his  company.  Bids  her 
favoured  clients  take  his  name.  Her  zeal  for  his  exaltation 
through  her  love  of  him  as  her  spouse.  Also  from  her  gratitude 
and  reverence  for  him.  The  desire  of  Jesus  and  Mary  that  Chris- 
tians should  regard  him  as  their  father.  His  intercessory  power 
grounded  on  his  relationship  with  them.  Joseph  the  patron  of  all 
classes  ;  especially  of  priests  and  missionaries  ..  .  page  426 



The  Church  the  spouse  of  Christ  and  organ  of  the  Holy  Ghost.  God 
works  by  His  Providence.  Apparent  neglect  of  St.  Joseph  in 
primitive  times.  Reasons  assigned  by  P.  Segneri.  Testimonies  to 
the  devotion  paid  him  in  the  East.  Memorials  of  him  in  the  Latin 
Church.  Testimonies  to  the  devotion  paid  him  therein.  Greater 
honour  apparently  given  by  the  Church  to  St.  John  the  Baptist. 
Explanation  why  his  feasts  preceded  those  of  St.  Joseph.  "Why 
his  name  is  inserted  in  the  Canon  of  the  Mass.  Why  his  name 
stands  before  that  of  St.  Joseph  in  the  Litanies  of  the  Saints.  St. 
Joseph's  supereminent  sanctity  believed  in  the  Church,  though 
not  ruled.  Hopes  as  to  its  future  action  in  the  matter  page  446 



Jacob's  prophecy  fulfilled  in  Joseph.  The  Spirit  of  God  speaks  in 
divers  manners.  Rapid  development  of  the  devotion  to  St. 
Joseph.  Imported  into  the  West  by  the  Fathers  of  Carmel. 
Communicated  to  the  Franciscans  and  Dominicans.  Gerson's 
ardent  promotion  of  it.  His  discourse  before  the  Council  of 


Constance.  The  devotion  advocated  by  St.  Bernardino  of  Siena 
and  Isidore  Isolano.  Special  impulse  given  thereto  by  Teresa  of 
Jesus.  Her  testimony  to  Joseph's  intercessory  power.  Confirmed 
by  Echius,  Bernardine  de  Bustis,  Giovanni  de  Cartagena,  and 
others.  Extract  from  F.  Faber's  work  on  the  Blessed  Sacrament. 
Enumeration  of  the  principal  public  honours  decreed  to  St.  Joseph 
by  the  Sovereign  Pontiffs.  Feast  of  his  Patronage  inaugurated 
by  the  Carmelite  Order.  The  example  widely  followed.  Ex- 
tended by  Pius  IX.  to  the  whole  Church.  Joseph  declared  Patron 
of  the  Universal  Church.  The  patronage  of  St.  Michael  distin- 
guished from  that  of  St.  Joseph.  The  spread  of  the  devotion 
marvellous.  Harmony  between  the  devotions  and  the  dogmas  of 
the  Church.  Joseph's  primacy  over  all  angels  and  saints,  Mary 
alone  excepted.  His  honour  inseparable  from  hers.  Her  solici- 
tude for  its  recognition.  His  superior  glory  no  derogation  to  that 
of  St.  John  Baptist  and  the  angels.  Our  duty  in  his  regard. 
Aspiration  of  the  writer page  459 

VERSAL CHURCH .        .    page  485 

PRAYER  TO  ST.  JOSEPH page  488 



TO  describe  the  life  and  the  glories  of  Joseph  is  to 
describe  at  the  same  time  the  life  of  Jesus  and  the 
glories  of  Mary  ;  for  Jesus,  Mary,  and  Joseph  are  so 
intimately  united,  that  it  is  impossible  to  speak  of  one 
without  treating  of  the  others.  These  three  dear  names 
— Jesus,  Mary,  Joseph  —  form  that  triple  heavenly 
alliance  which  can  never  be  broken.  He,  therefore,  who 
undertakes  to  narrate  the  life  of  Joseph  is  under  the 
happy  necessity  of  narrating  at  the  same  time,  in  large 
measure,  the  life  of  Jesus  and  Mary.  The  reader  will 
never  object  to  this,  since,  after  God,  Jesus,  Mary,  and 
Joseph  are  the  sweetest  and  sublimest  objects  with 
which  our  minds  and  hearts  can  be  filled  ;  they  are  the 
three  powerful  advocates  of  our  cause,  the  three  guid- 
ing stars  of  our  salvation.  But,  in  order  clearly  to 
understand  the  greatness  of  Joseph,  we  must  look 
very  far  back ;  for  his  greatness  did  not  begin  with 
his  birth,  neither  did  it  begin  with  his  espousals  to 
Mary.  Its  origin  is  far  more  remote,  and  must  be 
sought,  not  in  time,  but  in  eternity ;  it  began  with  his 

Predestination,  according  to  St.  Thomas  Aquinas,  is 
the  divine  preordination  from  eternity  of  those  things 
which,  by  divine  grace,  are  to  be  accomplished  in  time.1 
Now,  the  most  compassionate  Lord  God  had,  in  the 

1  P.  iii.  q.  xxiv.  a.  1. 

2  ST.    JOSEPH. 

admirable  dispositions  of  His  Providence,  from  all 
eternity,  preordained  the  ineffable  mystery  of  the  Divine 
Incarnation  to  repair  the  fall  of  Adam  and  save  his 
descendants  from  eternal  ruin.  This  mystery  "  hidden 
from  ages,"  as  the  Apostle  says,1  was  to  be  revealed  in 
the  fulness  of  time.  The  Eternal  Word  was  to  assume 
human  flesh,  and,  after  a  life  full  of  sufferings,  was  to 
offer  Himself  as  a  voluntary  victim  to  die  upon  a  cross, 
in  order,  as  an  innocent  Lamb,  to  expiate  the  sins  of  all 
mankind.  This  mystery,  then,  wras  to  be  accomplished  in 
Jesus ;  and,  therefore,  Jesus,  the  Saviour  of  all,  was, 
according  to  the  Apostle  Paul,  "  predestinated  the  Son  of 
God  in  power  "  ; 2  and,  as  St.  Augustine  explains,  it  was 
predestined  that  Jesus,  who  according  to  the  flesh  was 
the  Son  of  David,  was  in  truth  to  be  the  Son  of  God, 
seeing  that  it  was  preordained  that  human  nature  was 
one  day  to  subsist  in  the  Eternal  Person  of  the  Word 
along  with  the  Divine  Nature,  in  order  that  the  sufferings 
of  Jesus  might  have  an  infinite  value  to  satisfy  worthily 
the  Divine  Justice.  And  this  is  what  is  called  the 
eternal  decree  of  the  Divine  Incarnation. 

Now,  in  this  decree  is  comprehended,  not  only  the 
mystery  itself  of  the  Divine  Incarnation,  but  also  the 
mode  and  order  in  which  this  mystery  was  to  be  ac- 
complished, and,  consequently,  those  persons  who  were 
principally  and  more  immediately  to  have  a  part  in  it ; 
for,  according  to  the  doctrine  of  the  Angelic  Doctor,  the 
eternal  predestination  includes,  not  only  what  is  to  be 
accomplished  in  time,  but  likewise  the  mode  and  order 
according  to  which  it  is  to  be  so  accomplished.3  And  the 
mode  and  order  predestined  by  God  in  the  Incarnation 
of  His  Divine  Son  was  this  :  that  the  Most  Sacred  Hu- 
manity of  Jesus  Christ  was  to  be  taken,  but  without  sin, 
from  that  same  human  nature  which  had  sinned  in  Adam  ; 

1  Coloss.  i.  26.        2  Rom.  i.  4.        3  Summa,  p.  iii.  q.  xxiv.  a.  4. 


that  It  was  to  descend  from  the  blood  of  Abraham,  to  be 
of  the  tribe  of  Juda  and  the  race  of  David,  and  that  the 
Body  of  Jesus  was  to  be  formed  by  the  power  of  the 
Holy  Ghost  in  the  pure  womb  of  an  immaculate  virgin. 
This  elect  virgin  is  Mary  ;  and  therefore  Mary,  after  Jesus, 
was  immediately  comprised  in  the  decree  of  the  Divine 
Incarnation,  and  from  eternity  predestined  to  be  the  most 
august  Mother  of  the  Son  of  God.  "  The  Virgin,"  says 
the  great  doctor  Suarez,  "  could  not  be  disjoined  from  her 
Son  in  the  Divine  election."  The  Church  herself  puts 
into  the  mouth  of  the  Virgin  these  words  of  the  Divine 
Wisdom  :  "I  was  preordained  from  eternity  "^  Mary 
was  truly  a  predetermined  end  of  the  eternal  counsel,  and 
St.  Augustine  calls  her  "  the  work  of  eternal  counsel  ". 

But,  in  order  to  conceal  this  mystery  of  love  from  the 
world  until  the  appointed  time  had  come,  and  to  safeguard 
at  the  same  time  the  reputation  of  the  Virgin  Mother  and 
the  honour  of  the  Divine  Son,  God  willed  that  Mary  by 
a  marriage  altogether  heavenly  should  be  espoused  to 
the  humblest,  the  purest,  and  the  holiest  of  the  royal 
race  of  David,  one  therefore  expressly  predestined  for  this 
end ;  a  virgin  spouse  for  the  Virgin  Mother,  who  at  the 
same  time  should  be  in  the  place  of  a  father  to  the  Divine 
Son.  In  the  Divine  mind  Joseph  was  the  one  chosen 
from  amongst  all  others.  Joseph  held  the  first  place. 
Joseph  was  predestined  to  this  office.  True,  from  the 
tribe  of  Juda,  from  the  family  of  David,  great  patriarchs 
were  to  arise,  famous  leaders  of  the  people,  most  noble 
kings  ;  but  God  did  not  choose  any  of  these.  He  chose 
Joseph  alone.  Joseph  was  the  beloved  one.  Joseph 
was  specially  preordained  to  become  one  day  the  happy 
spouse  of  Mary  and  the  foster-father  of  Jesus.  "As 
Mary,"  says  Echius,  the  famous  opponent  of  Luther, 
"  was  from  eternity  predestined  to  be  the  mother  of  the 

1  Prov.  viii.  23.  " 

4  ST.    JOSEPH. 

Son  of   God ;    so   also  was   Joseph   elected  to  be   the 
guardian  and  protector  of  Jesus  and  of  Mary."1 

Thus  Joseph  was,  after  Mary,  comprehended  in  the 
very  decree  of  the  Incarnation,  and,  after  Mary,  was 
called  to  have  an  integral  part,  as  it  were,  in  this 
ineffable  mystery.  It  is  easy  to  perceive  how  much 
honour  hence  redounds  to  Joseph ;  for  if,  next  to  the 
mystery  of  the  Most  Holy  Trinity,  the  mystery  of  the 
Divine  Incarnation  is  the  essential  foundation  of  the 
Christian  faith,  who  can  fail  to  see  that  to  be  included  in 
the  eternal  decree  of  so  admirable  a  mystery,  into  which 
the  angels  themselves  "desire  to  look,"2  is  an  incompar- 
able glory  to  this  great  saint  ?  We  must  always,  there- 
fore, bear  well  in  mind  this  singular  destination  of 
Joseph,  because  this  is  truly  the  ground  of  all  his 
greatness.  This  is  the  basis  upon  which  all  his  glories 
are  raised.  Whoever  thoroughly  realises  the  fact  of  this 
preordination  will  no  longer  marvel  at  God's  predilection 
for  Joseph,  and  at  seeing  him  so  highly  privileged  and 
exalted  to  be  the  guardian  and  patron  of  the  Universal 

1  Sermo  de  S.  Joseph.  2  1  St.  Peter  i.  12. 




TYTHATEVEB  God  disposes  is  disposed  in  a  marvellous 
»  T  and  perfect  order.  Wherefore  the  Church  which 
Jesus  came  to  found  on  earth  imitates  the  Heavenly  Sion. 
As  in  Heaven  there  are  angelical  hierarchies,  and  in 
these  hierarchies  there  are  divers  orders,  so  also  on  earth 
there  is  a  hierarchy  of  grace,  and  in  that  hierarchy  are 
included  various  orders,  or  ministries,  which,  according 
to  the  Angelic  Doctor,  St.  Thomas,  excel  each  other  in 
proportion  to  their  approximation  to  God.1  The  highest 
of  all  these  orders,  whether  angelic  or  human,  is  the 
order  of  the  Hypostatic  Union,  in  which  is  Christ  Jesus, 
God  and  Man.  By  the  Hypostatic  Union  is  meant  that 
the  Eternal  Son  of  God,  in  His  Incarnation,  assumed 
human  nature,  and  united  it  to  Himself  in  Personal 
unity ;  in  other  words,  that  in  the  one  Divine  Person  of 
Jesus  Christ,  the  two  Natures,  the  Divine  Nature  and 
the  Human  Nature,  ever  distinct  in  themselves,  became 
inseparably  and  eternally  united.  If  a  wonderful  order 
is  displayed  in  all  the  works  of  nature,  an  order  supremely 
perfect  is  displayed  in  all  the  works  of  grace,  especially 
in  the  great  work  of  the  Incarnation.  Among  these 
orders  of  grace  some  precede  the  mystery  of  the  Incar- 
nation, others  follow  it.  Among  those  which  precede  it 
the  most  remote  is  the  order  of  the  Patriarchs,  chosen  to 

1  Summa,  p.  i.  q.  cvii.  a.  6. 

t>  ST.    JOSEPH. 

prepare  the  progenitors  of  Jesus  down  to  St.  Joachim 
and  St.  Anne.  To  some  of  these,  as  to  Abraham  and  to 
David,  it  was  expressly  revealed  that  of  their  blood  and 
of  their  family  the  Saviour  of  men  should  be  born  into 
the  world.  The  next  is  the  Levitical  and  sacerdotal 
order,  which  was  preordained  by  God  to  figure  in  all  its 
rites  the  Priesthood  of  Jesus,'  His  Church,  His  Sacra- 
ments^ the  Bloody  Sacrifice  of  the  Cross,  and  the  Un- 
bloody Sacrifice  of  the  Altar.  The  third  is  that  of  the 
Prophets,  destined  to  foretell  and  announce  to  the  world, 
so  many  centuries  before  the  coming  of  Jesus,  His  Birth 
of  a  Virgin,  His  country,  the  place  of  His  Nativity,  His 
flight  into  Egypt,  His  Apostles,  His  preaching,  His 
miracles,  His  Passion,  His  Death,  His  Eesurrection,  His 
glorious  Ascension  into  Heaven.  Greater  than  all  these 
Prophets  was  John  Baptist,  because  destined  and  preor- 
dained to  be  the  immediate  Precursor  of  Christ,  and  to 
point  to  Him  as  being  actually  present  on  the  earth; 
whence  Jesus  Himself  affirmed  that  among  those  who 
were  born  of  woman  there  was  not  a  greater  prophet 
than  John  the  Baptist.1  These  are  the  orders  which 
tinder  the  Old  Law  preceded  Jesus. 

Others  succeeded  Him;  and  these  are  the  various 
orders  or  ministries  of  Holy  Church,  which  form  the 
ecclesiastical  hierarchy,  beginning  with  the  Apostles. 
The  Apostles  were  to  render  to  the  whole  earth  and  to 
all  ages  their  solemn  testimony  to  the  Divinity  of  Jesus 
Christ ;  they  were  to  announce  to  all  His  Doctrine,  His 
Law,  His  Sacraments  ;  they  were  to  found  and  to  spread 
His  Church  throughout  the  world,  so  that  all  might 
attain  to  salvation.  And,  as.  the  Apostolic  order  was 
nearer  than  any  other  to  Jesus,  even  so,  says  the  Angelic 
Doctor,  did  the  Apostles  receive  greater  grace  than  any 
saints  in  the  other  orders2  of  the  Church.  Of  the  inferior 

1  St.  Luke  vii.  28.  2  In  Epistolam  ad  Eplies.  i.  8. 


orders  we  need  not  here  speak.  Now,  above  all  these 
orders  rises  supreme  the  order  of  the  Hypostatic  Union. 
All  the  other  orders,  comprising  even  the  angelic,  are 
subordinate  and  subject  to  it ;  for  this  reason,  that  Jesus 
is  the  beginning,  the  author,  and  the  head  of  this  order, 
and  on  Jesus,  as  Sovereign  Prince,  depends  every  hier- 
archy, every  sacred  princedom  in  Heaven  and  on  earth, 
since  Jesus,  as  the  Apostle  says,  is  the  end  of  the  whole 
law.1  Jesus  is  the  chief  corner-stone2  upon  which  rests 
the  whole  sacred  edifice  of  the  Church.  Jesus,  according 
to  the  Prophet  Isaias,  is  set  up  as  an  ensign  to  the  people/ 
the  desire  of  all  nations,  the  centre  of  universal  hope. 
Jesus  is  the  sole  and  true  source  of  salvation  to  all  men. 
By  faith  in  Him  who  was  to  come  all  were  saved  who 
lived  justly  from  Adam  until  His  day ;  and  all  those  who 
have  lived  and  shall  live  justly  since  His  coming  have 
been  and  shall  be  saved  by  Him  alone.  In  Him  alone, 
from  Him  alone,  and  through  Him  alone,  is  truth,  salva- 
tion, and  life ;  so  that,  even  as  the  planets  in  the  firma- 
ment revolve  round  the  sun,  receiving  from  it  light,  heat, 
and  power,  so  also  around  Jesus,  the  Eternal  Sun  of 
Justice,  all  the  various  orders  of  grace  circle,  from  Him 
alone  receiving  light,  virtue,  and  power  to  fulfil  faithfully 
the  holy  offices  to  which  they  are  ordained ;  and  so  much 
the  greater  or  the  less  grace  and  dignity  do  they  receive 
as  they  are  more  or  less  approximated  in  their  ministry 
to  Jesus,  the  author  of  grace,  just  as  one  who  is  nearer 
to  the  fire  participates  more  largely  in  its  heat.  It  is 
clear,  then,  that  the  order  of  the  Hypostatic  Union 
transcends  and  surpasses  the  other  subaltern  orders,  even 
as  the  sun  transcends  the  inferior  stars. 

Now,  Joseph  by  divine  predestination  -was  placed  in 
this  sovereign  order.  Three  only  composed  it — Jesus, 
Mary,  Joseph.  Jesus  is  true  God  and  true  Man ;  Mary 

1  Eom.  x.  4.  2  Ephes.  ii.  20.  3  Isaias  xi.  10,  12. 

8  ST.    JOSEPH. 

is  true  mother  of  God  and  mother  of  men;  Joseph  is 
true  spouse  of  Mary  and  putative  father  of  Jesus.  Jesus 
is  the  principal  subject  of  the  Incarnation,  and  the  author 
of  the  Eedemption  of  the  world ;  Mary  is  the  immediate 
co-operatrix  and,  so  to  say,  the  executrix  of  the  Incarna- 
tion itself ;  Joseph,  the  faithful  depositary  of  these  two 
most  precious  pledges,  was  to  provide  that  this  sublime 
mystery  of  the  Incarnation  and  Eedemption  should  be 
brought  about  wjth  the  greatest  possible  congruity,  so 
that  the  honour  of  the  mother  and  of  the  God-Man,  her 
Son,  should  remain  intact. 

That  Joseph  should  be  comprised  in  this  supreme 
order  is  not  a  mere  devout  opinion  or  the  fruit  of  pious 
meditation;  it  is  a  sure  decision  of  the  soundest 
theology.  Suarez,  that  eminent  theologian,  after  having 
spoken  of  the  order  of  the  Apostles,  upon  which  he  said 
the  greatest  grace  was  conferred,,  goes  on  to  say  :  "  There 
are  other  ministries  appertaining  to  the  order  of  the 
Hypostatic  Union,  which  in  its  kind  is  more  perfect,  as 
we  affirmed  of  the  dignity  of  the  Mother  of  God,  and  in 
this  order  is  constituted  the  ministry  of  St.  Joseph ;  and, 
although  it  be  in  the  lowest  grade  of  it,  nevertheless,  in 
this  respect,  it  surpasses  all  others,  because  it  exists  in  a 
superior  order".1  Thus  spoke  Suarez,  the  learned  theo- 
logian of  Granada,  about  three  hundred  years  ago,  when 
the  opinion  of  the  faithful  respecting  St.  Joseph  and  the 
devotion  due  to  him  had  not  been  so  openly  and  generally 

But  the  doctors  who  followed  spoke  still  more  clearly. 
Giovanni  di  Cartagena,  contemporary  of  Bellarmine  and 
Baronius,  and  very  dear  to  Pope  Pius  V.  for  his  piety  and 
science,  out  of  the  numerous  learned  homilies  which  he 
wrote,  devoted  thirteen  to  the  praises  of  Joseph.  After 
having  spoken  of  the  Apostolic  order,  he  passes  on  to 

1  Tom.  ii.  disp.  viii.  sec.  1. 


treat  of  the  order  of  the  Hypostatic  Union,  and  says  that 
in  its  kind  it  is  more  perfect  than  the  other,  and  that  in 
this  order  the  first  place  is  held  by  the  Humanity  of 
Christ,  which  is  immediately  united  to  the  Person  of  the 
Word;  the  second  place  is  held  by  the  Blessed  Virgin, 
who  conceived  and  brought  forth  the  Incarnate  Word ; 
the  third  place  is  held  by  St.  Joseph,  to  whom  was 
committed  by  God  the  special  care,  never  given  to  any 
other,  of  feeding,  nursing,  educating,  and  protecting  a  God- 
made-man  I1  After  Cartagena  comes  P.  Giuseppe  Antonio 
Patrignani,  highly  praised  also  by  Benedict  XIV.,  who, 
almost  two  centuries  ago,  wrote  thus  of  St.  Joseph : 
"  He,  as  constituted  head  of  the  Family  immediately 
belonging  to  the  service  of  a  God-Man,  transcends  in 
dignity  all  the  other  saints;  wherefore  he  is  happily 
established  in  an  order  which  is  superior  to  all  the  other 
orders  in  the  Church  ".2 

We  might  adduce  other  doctors  of  high  authority,  but 
we  will  proceed  to  consider  some  of  the  legitimate  conse- 
quences which  flow  from  this  doctrine. 

1.  It  is  an  exceeding  honour  to  Joseph  to  be  comprised 
in  the  same  order  wherein  are  Jesus  Himself,  the  Son  pf 
God,  the  King  of  kings,  and  Mary,  Mother  of  God  and 
Queen  of  the  universe,  to  be  united  with  them  in  the 
closest  relations,  aud  enjoy  their  most  entire  confidence. 
The  nobles  of  the  earth  deem  themselves  to  be  highly 
honoured  in  being  brought  into  near  association  with 
monarchs  of  renown,  holding  the  foremost  places  in  their 
courts,  and  being  the  most  trusted  in  their  councils. 
What,  then,  shall  we  say  of  Joseph,  who,  placed  in  the 
order  of  the  Hypostatic  Union,  was  destined  by  God,  not 
only  to  be  the  first  in  His  court  and  the  closest  in  His 
confidence,  but  even  to  be  the  reputed  father  of  the  King 

1  Lib.  iv.  Horn.  viii. 
2  II  Divoto  di  S.  Giuseppe,  Novena,  Gior.  vi. 

10  ST.    JOSEPH. 

of  kings ;  to  be,  not  only  the  confidential  friend,  but  the 
very  spouse  of  the  most  exalted  of  all  the  empresses  in 
the  universe  ?  Next  to  the  Divine  Maternity,  no  honour 
in  the  world  is  comparable  with  this. 

2.  TJO  be  comprised  in  the  order  of  the  Hypostatic 
Union  implies  being,  after  Jesus  and  Mary,  superior  to 
all  the  other  saints,  both  of  the  Old  and  the  New  Testa- 
ment ;    and   the  reason  is  clear :    for,  this  order  being 
superior  to  all  the  other  orders  in  the  Church,  it  follows 
that  whosoever  has  a  place  in  this  order,  albeit  in  its 
lowest  grade,  as  Joseph  has,  ranks  before  all  who  are 
even  in  the  highest  grade  of  a  lower  order,  such  as  that 
of  the  Apostles,  which  is  the  most  eminent  among  them. 

3.  It  follows  that  Joseph  is  superior,  not  in  nature,  but 
in  dignity,  to  the  angels  themselves,  since  the  orders  of 
angels  are  subject  to  the  order  of  the  Hypostatic  Union, 
subject  to  Jesus,  their  King  and  th'eir  Head,  subject  to 
Mary,  their  Queen ;  hence,  as  the  Apostle  declares,  when 
the  Eternal  Father  sent  His  Divine  Son  upon  earth  He 
commanded  all  the  angels  to  adore  Him.1     And  on  ac- 
count of  Jesus  the  angels  became  subject  also  to  Mary 
and  to  Joseph  :  thus  we  find  them  hastening  gladly  to 
serve  them,  to  warn  them,  to  console  them  ;  and  were 
they  not  sent  expressly  from  Heaven  to  act  as  attendants 
on  Joseph,  at  one  time  to  assure  him  that  his  Spouse  has 
conceived  the  Son  of  God  Himself ;  at  another  to  make 
known  to  him  the  plot  of  Herod,  so  that  he  might  place 
the  Virgin  and  her  Divine  Son  in  safety  by  flying  into 
Egypt ;  and,  again,  to  announce  to  him  that  now  he  may 
joyfully  return  into  the  land  of  Israel  ? 2 

4.  We  conclude  that  Joseph  was  comprehended  in  this 
order  because  he  was  truly  the  head  and  guardian  of  this 
Divine  Family.     To  rule  and  govern  this  august  family 
belonged  of  right  to  Jesus,  who  was  God.     Mary  and 

1  Heb.  i.  6.  2  St.  Matthew  i.  20,  21 ;  ii.  13,  19,  20. 


Joseph,  exalted  as  they  were  in  dignity,  were,  neverthe- 
less, only  creatures  ;  but  Jesus  willed  to  give  an  example 
of  the  most  perfect  humility.  It  was  His  will  to  mag- 
nify our  saint,  and  to  concede  to  him  this  high  glory, 
making  him  the  head  and  guardian  of  His  family ;  so 
that  Joseph  had  rule  and  authority  over  the  Son  of  God 
Himself  and  over  the  very  Mother  of  the  Son  of  God.  And 
Joseph,  being  thus  destined  to  be  the  head  and  guardian 
of  Jesus,  the  head  and  guardian  of  Mary,  became  at  the 
same  time  the  patron  and  guardian  of  the  Church,  which 
is  the  spouse  of  Jesus  and,  in  a  manner,  the  daughter  of 
Mary.  Whence  Pius  IX.,  of  blessed  memory,  in  pro- 
claiming Joseph  Patron  of  the  Church,  did  not  so  much 
confer  a  new  title  of  honour  upon  him  as  affirm  and 
declare  this  his  most  ancient  prerogative,  which  had  not 
before  been  so  expressly  promulgated  by  Holy  Church. 

5.  It  follows  that  Joseph  was  comprised  in  that  order 
and  in  that  family  by  the  highest  representation  which  it 
is  possible  to  conceive,  inasmuch  as  he  was  made  the  very 
representative  of  the  Divine  Father,  who  alone  has  the 
right  to  call  Jesus  His  Son,  having  begotten  Him  from 
all  eternity  ;  and  yet  that  same  God,  who  by  the  mouth 
of  Isaias1  protested  that  He  would  never  give  His  glory 
to  another,  that  God  who,  in  communicating  to  the 
Word  and  to  the  Holy  Spirit  His  Divine  essence,  does 
not  in  any  wise  communicate  to  them.  His  Divine 
paternity,  was  so  generous  to  Joseph  as  to  concede  to 
him  His  glory,  and  communicate  to  him  His  name  and 
His  paternity ;  not  actually,  for  that  was  impossible,  but 
so  that  he  should  be  in  His  place  and  stead,  and  should 
be  called  the  father  of  Him  who  was  the  Divine  Word, 
and  that  the  Word  Himself  should  call  Joseph  by  the 
sweet  name  of  father,  so  that  he  might  with  true  joy 
appropriate  to  himself  that  passage  in  Holy  Scripture  : 

1  Chap.  xlii.  8. 

12  ST.    JOSEPH. 

"  I  will  be  to  Him  a  father  and  He  shall  be  to  me  a  son".1 
Herein  we  see  manifested  the  great  love  of  the  Three 
Persons  of  the  Blessed  Trinity  for  our  saint  and  the  con- 
fidence They  reposed  in  him;  for  the  Eternal  Father 
committed  wholly  into  his  charge  His  well-beloved  Son  ; 
the  Divine  Son  delivered  Himself  entirely  to  his  care  and 
to  his  will ;  the  Holy  Spirit  consigned  and  committed  to 
him  His  most  immaculate  Spouse ;  so  that  this  Holy 
Family,  of  which  Joseph  became  the  head,  was  another 
Triad  on  earth,  a  resplendent  image  of  the  Most  Holy 
Triad  in  Heaven,  the  Ever-Blessed  Trinity  :  Joseph  repre- 
senting the  Eternal  Father,  Jesus  representing  and  being 
in  very  truth  the  Eternal  Word,  and  Mary  representing 
the  Eternal  Love,  the  Holy  Spirit.  This  thought  is  bor- 
rowed from  the  new  Doctor  of  the  Church,  St.  Francis  de 
Sales.  "  We  may  say  " — these  are  his  words — "  that  the 
Holy  Family  was  a  Trinity  on  Earth,  which  in  a  certain 
way  represented  the  Heavenly  Trinity  Itself."2 

6.  Finally,  it  follows  that  Joseph,  in  that  he  was 
comprised  in  that  sublime  order,  superior  to  that  of  all 
the  other  saints,  must  as  a  natural  consequence  have 
been  predestined  to  receive  greater  gifts  and  graces  than 
all  the  other  saints,  that  he  might  be  made  worthy  to  be 
so  near  to  Jesus  and  Mary,  and  fitted  to  discharge  most 
faithfully  those  high  ministries  to  which  he  was  elected. 
Hence  the  pious  Bernardine  de  Bustis  makes  this  bold 
assertion  :  "  Since  Joseph  was  to  be  the  guardian,  com- 
panion, and  ruler  of  the  Most  Blessed  Virgin  and  of  the 
Child  Jesus,  is  it  possible  to  conceive  that  God  could 
have  made  a  mistake  in  the  choice  of  him  ?  or  that  He 
could  have  permitted  him  to  be  deficient  in  any  respect  ? 
or  could  have  failed  to  make  him  most  perfect?  The 
very  idea  would  be  the  grossest  of  errors.  When  God 
selects  any  one  to  perform  some  great  work  He  bestows 
upon  him  every  virtue  needful  for  its  accomplishment."8 
1  Heb.  i.  5.  2  Entretien,  xix.  3  Marialc,  Sernio  xii. 


Let  us  rejoice,  then,  with  our  most  loving  Patriarch 
that  he  has  been  exalted  to  so  sublime  an  order,  and  has 
obtained  such  grace,  power,  and  dignity  as  none  other, 
after  Jesus  and  Mary,  has  ever  received,  to  the  glory  of 
God,  who  made  him  so  great,  and  for  our  profit  and  that 
of  the  whole  Church. 



WE  have  undertaken  to  speak,  not  only  of  the  life,  but 
of  the  glories  of  St.  Joseph ;  it  behoves  us,  there- 
fore, to  exhibit  the  glory  that  accrued  to  him  in  having 
been  prefigured  in  Holy  Scripture.  Nor  is  this  a  most 
signal  glory  only ;  it  is  also  a  manifest  sign  of  that  great 
love  and  especial  regard  which  God  had  for  him  from  all 
eternity.  They  are  greatly  mistaken  who  suppose,  and 
indeed  complain,  that,  considering  how  great  a  personage 
Joseph  was,  so  little  is  said  of  him  in  Holy  Writ.  For, 
even  in  the  literal  and  historical  sense,  there  is  sufficient 
mention  of  him  in  the  Holy  Gospels  to  make  us  appre- 
hend his  exalted  dignity  ;  while,  prophetically  speaking, 
he  is  so  clearly  foreshadowed  in  the  Old  Testament  as  to 
make  it  abundantly  evident  that  it  pleased  God  to  present 
him  to  the  world  many  centuries  before  he  was  born. 

In  the  first  place,  there  can  be  no  manner  of  doubt 
that  God  designed  to  give  an  exact  and  elaborate  figure 
of  our  saint  in  the  person  of  the  ancient  patriarch 
Joseph,  the  son  of  Jacob.  Nor  let  it  be  objected  that, 
according  to  the  Fathers,  that  ancient  patriarch  was  a, 
true  type  and  figure  of  our  Divine  Eedeemer,  and  there- 
fore that  he  cannot  be  at  the  same  time  a  type  and 
figure  of  our  Isaint ;  for  in  Holy  Scripture,  dictated  as 
it  was  by  the  infinite  wisdom  of  God  and  containing 
manifold  meanings,  it  often  happens  that  one  and  the 
same  thing  or  person  is  a  type  or  figure  of  several  things 


or  persons;  or  the  same  individual  may,  under  one 
aspect  or  in  one  action,  represent  one  person,  and,  under 
another  aspect  and  in  another  action,  represent  a  dif- 
ferent person  ;  or,  again,  under  the  one  literal  sense  of  a 
passage  are  often  contained  various  mystical  and  spiritual 
senses  :  thus,  for  instance,  Jerusalem  in  the  literal  sense 
is  the  capital  city  of  the  Hebrew  people,  where  was  the 
Holy  Temple ;  allegorically  it  is  the  Holy  Catholic  Church; 
in  a  tropological  and  moral  sense  it  is  the  soul  of  the 
Christian  ;  in  an  anagogical  sense  it  is  Paradise.  So  it 
is  very  true  that  the  ancient  Joseph  was  in  many  events 
of  his  life  a  type  and  figure  of  Jesus,  especially  when  he 
was  sent  by  his  father  in  search  of  his  brethren,  and  they 
plotted  his  death ;  when  he  was  sold  for  a  sum  of  money 
to  a  band  of  barbarians  ;  when  he  was  falsely  accused 
and  made  no  defence,  but  suffered  the  punishment  due  to 
the  accuser ;  when  he  was  kept  in  bonds  between  two 
criminals,  and  foretold  death  to  the  one  and  glory  to  the 
other  ;  when  he  supplied  food  to  those  who  had  sought 
to  compass  his  death  ;  and,  finally,  when  he  received  the 
name  of  "saviour  of  the  world".1  But  it  is  also  true  that 
in  other  points  this  ancient  patriarch  most  clearly  pre- 
figured our  saint. 

For  this  opinion  we  have  the  express  authority  of  St. 
John  Chrysostom,  St.  Ambrose,  St.  Augustine,  St.  Ber- 
nard, St.  Bonaventura,  St.  Bernardine  of  Siena,  and,  to 
descend  to  more  recent  times,  that  of  the  two  new  Doctors 
of  the  Church,  St.  Francis  de  Sales  and  St.  Alphonsus 
Liguori ;  and,  again,  of  the  solemn  decree  of  the  Holy 
See  wherein  Joseph  was  declared  Patron  of  the  Universal 

1  Gen.  xli.  45. 

2  "  Quemadmodum  Deus  Josephum  ilium  a  Jacob  Patriarcha 
progenitum  praepositum  constituerat  universe  terrae  JEgypti  .  .  .  ita 
temporum  plenitudine  adventante,  alium  'selegit  Josephum,  cujus 
ille  primus  typum  gesserat." — Deer.  S.  Rit.  die  8.  Dec.,  1870. 

16  ST.    JOSEPH. 

The  ancient  Joseph,  then,  prefigured  our  Joseph  in  his 
very  name.  "Bemember,"  says  St.  Bernard,  "the  ancient 
patriarch  who  was  sold  into  Egypt,  and  know  that 
that  man  (Joseph)  not  only  inherited  his  name  but  pos- 
sessed, moreover,  his  chastity,  his  innocency,  and  his 
grace  ;  " 1  nay,  he  inherited  not  only  his  name  but  the 
import  and  the  substance  of  that  name  in  a  hundredfold 
greater  measure.  Joseph  in  the  Hebrew  language 
signifies  increase ;  hence  the  dying  father  of  the  ancient 
Joseph,  when  bestowing  upon  him  the  fulness  of  his  bene- 
diction, said,  "Joseph  is  a.  growing  son;  a  growing 
son  "  ; 2  meaning  thereby,  not  only  that  his  son  Joseph 
himself  increased  in  wisdom,  in  power,  and  glory,  but 
that  he  increased  for  his  brethren  and  his  children, 
obtaining  for  them  rich  goods  and  possessions  in  the  land 
of  Gessen.  But  this  double  increase  was  far  more 
verified  in  the  second  Joseph ;  first,  by  his  own  daily 
increase  in  the  fulness  of  grace  and  in  the  Divine  favour, 
and  then  by  augmenting  for  us,  his  children  and  his 
brethren,  the  means  of  salvation,  obtaining  for  us  from 
God  a  continual  increase  of  graces  and  benefits  towards 
the  attainment  of  our  eternal  inheritance. 

The  first  Joseph  was  son  of  the  patriarch  Jacob,  and 
the  second  Joseph  was  the  son  of  another  holy  patriarch, 
Jacob,  so  that  he  resembled  our  saint  not  only  in  his 
own  name  but  in  that  of  his  father  ;  and  the  mother  of 
the  ancient  Joseph,  the  beautiful  Eachel,  was  buried  near 
Bethlehem,  whence  sprang  the  second  Joseph  and  where 
the  Divine  Eedeemer  was  to  be  born.  And  even  as  at 
the  birth  of  the  first  Joseph  the  servitude  of  Jacob  to 
Laban  was  about  to  cease,  and  the  way  began  to  be 
opened  for  his  return  to  his  country,  so  at  the  birth  of 
the  second  Joseph  began  to  appear,  as  it  were,  the  dawn 
of  that  day  when  the  slavery  of  sin  would  be  removed 
and  the  way  re-opened  to  the  blessed  home  of  Paradise. 

1  Super  Missus  est.  Horn  ii.  2  Gen.  xlix.  22. 


As  the  ancient  Joseph  grew  in  years  he  was  of  all  his 
brethren  the  most  gracious  in  manners,  the  most  inno- 
cent and  pure  in  his  conduct.  His  father  loved  him 
with  a  special  affection  in  preference  to  all  his  other 
sons,  and,  as  a  proof  of  his  love,  caused  to  be  made  for 
him  a  beautiful  garment  richly  embroidered  in  various 
colours ;  by  which  it  is  signified  that  our  Joseph  should 
grow  in  grace  and  sanctity  surpassing  that  of  all  the 
angels  and  saints,  save  Mary  alone,  and  should  be  beloved 
above  all  by  God,  and  by  Him  be  clothed  with  habits  of 
the  most  heroic  virtues,  so  as  to  become  an  object  of. 
singular  veneration  and  pre-eminently  glorious  among 
all  the  blessed  who  have  attained  to  glory.  This  was 
shown  to  the  'ancient  patriarch  in  a  marvellous  vision, 
wherein  it  seemed  to  him  that  he  and  his  brethren  at 
harvest-time  were  binding  their  sheaves,  and  his  sheaf 
stood  erect,  while  those  of  his  brethren  which  surrounded 
it  bowed  themselves  down  as  if  to  adore  it.  In  the  literal 
sense  -this  vision  was  fulfilled  when,  during  the  seven 
years  of  famine,  his  brethren  came  to  him  for  bread, 
signified  by  those  sheaves  of  wheat,  and  did  him  homage 
as  the  Viceroy  of  Egypt ;  but  in  the  mystical  sense  it 
was  accomplished  in  the  second  Joseph.  The  field  in 
which  he  is  found  with  his  brethren  is  the  Church ;  the 
sheaves  of  wheat  are  the  accumulated  merits,  the  fruits 
of  grace.  The  foremost  in  gathering  and  binding  full 
sheaves  of  holy  works  and  heroic  virtues  ,in  this  great 
field  was,  after  Mary,  to  be  Joseph.  The  first  who  should 
follow  him  would  also  collect  their  sheaves,  but  these 
would  never  equal  Joseph's  sheaf,  which  would  stand 
rich  and  glorious  above  them  all ;  and,  recognising  therein 
his  superiority  in  merits  and  greatness,  all  would  bow 
before  him,  beholding  in  him  the  reputed  father  of  Jesus, 
the  husband  of  Mary,  the  exalted  patron  of  the  Universal 

His  glory  and  dignity  were  still  more  manifested  in 

18  ST.    JOSEPH. 

another  admirable  vision  which  the  ancient  patriarch 
saw,  when  he  seemed  to  behold  the  sun,  the  moon,  and 
eleven  stars  descend  to  adore  him.  This  vision  was 
fulfilled  according  to  the  letter  when  his  father  and  his 
eleven  brethren  with  their  families  came  into  Egypt  to 
do  homage  to  him  on  his  throne ;  but  more  truly  in  a 
spiritual  sense  was  it  accomplished  in  our  Joseph  when, 
in  Egypt,  in  Nazareth,  in  Jerusalem,  he  beheld  Jesus, 
who  is  the  Sun  of  Justice,  "  subject  "  1  to  him ;  his  im- 
maculate Spouse,  Mary,  who  is  fair  as  the  moon,  yielding 
him  obedience  ;  and  now  in  Heaven  beholds  the  Apostles 
and  Saints  all  doing  him  homage  and  paying  him  the 
profoundest  veneration.  Now,  if  such  bright  stars  do 
reverence  to  Joseph,  what  homage,  what  veneration,  do 
not  we  owe  to  him,  miserable  little  lamps  as  we  are  ! 

As  the  ancient  Joseph  became  the  victim  of  his  breth- 
ren's envy  and  was  led  as  a  slave  into  Egypt,  so  our 
Joseph,  through  Herod's  envy,  was  forced  to  become  an 
exile  in  Egypt,  flying  thither  with  his  greatest  treasure, 
Jesus,  and  his  most  holy  Spouse.  And,  as  the  former 
found  grace  with  Putiphar,  chief  captain  of  Pharao's  army, 
even  to  being  made  steward  of  his  household,  and  set  as 
governor  over  his  whole  family  to  order  all  things  at  his 
pleasure,  even  so  the  latter  found  grace  with  Jesus,  his 
Lord,  was  constituted  His  minister-general,  and  promoted 
to  the  government,  tutelage,  and  patronage  both  of  the 
the  Holy  Family  and  of  the  House  of  the  Lord,  which  is 
His  Church.  The  first  Joseph  in  the  house  of  Putiphar 
gave  a  signal  proof  of  heroic  chastity ;  and  yet  he  was 
consigned  for  some  time  to  the  obscurity  of  a  dungeon 
and  was  almost  forgotten.  The  second  Joseph  gave  a  far 
more  sublime  example  of  angelic  virginity,  espoused  as 
he  was  to  the  purest  of  all  virgins  ;  nevertheless,  in  order 
that  the  Divinity  of  Jesus  and  the  Virginity  of  Mary 

1  St.  Luke  ii.  51. 


might  first  be  displayed  in  all  their  incomparable  splen- 
dour, he  chose  to  remain  for  some  time  hidden  and 
almost  forgotten  in  the  Catholic  Church. 

While  the  first  (says  St.  Bernard)  receives  from  God 
intelligence  in  the  interpretation  of  dreams,  to  the  second 
He  gives  both  the  knowledge  and  the  participation  of 
heavenly  mysteries.  The  former  passed  from  the  obscurity 
of  a  prison  to  the  splendours  of  a  court ;  the  latter  passed 
from  the  sorrows  of  exile  to  the  celestial  mansions,  with 
the  truly  regal  dignity  of  reputed  father  of  the  King  of 
kings,  spouse  of  the  Queen  of  Heaven,  and  most  power- 
ful patron  of  the  Universal  Church.  The  exaltation  of 
the  ancient  Joseph  to  the  highest  rank  in  the  court  of  the 
king  of  Egypt  could  not  more  perfectly  figure  the  eleva- 
tion of  our  Joseph  to  the  loftiest  seats  in  the  House  of 
the  Lord  and  the  Court  of  Heaven.  See  how  Pharao, 
having  recognised  the  wisdom  of  Joseph  in  the  true  in- 
terpretation of  his  dreams,  joyfully  exclaims :  "  Can  I 
find  one  wiser  and  one  like  unto  thee?  Thou  shalt  be  over 
my  house,  and  at  the  commandment  of  thy  mouth  all  the 
people  shall  obey.  Behold  I  have  appointed  thee  over 
the  whole  land  of  Egypt."  l  Then  he  took  hfs  ring  from 
his  own  hand  and  placed  it  on  Joseph's,  and  arrayed  him 
in  a  robe  of  silk,  and  put  a  chain  of  gold  about  his  neck, 
and  made  him  go  up  into  his  second  chariot,  while  a  crier 
proclaimed  that  all  should  bow  the  knee  before  him,  and 
acknowledge  him  as  Governor  of  Egypt.  Here,  then,  is 
an  express  figure  of  the  second  Joseph,  when  he  was"  con- 
stituted by  God  head  of  the  Holy  Family  and  Patron 
of  the  Catholic  Church.  To  our  saint  God  in  like  manner 
said :  ' '  Whom  shall  I  find  wiser  and  more  fitting  than 
thou  art  to  preside  over  My  Family,  and  to  be  the  Patron 
and  Protector  of  My  Church  ?  Behold  I  set  thee  as  the 
master  and  governor  of  My  house,  and  all  My  children 

1  Gen.  xli.  39-41. 

20  ST.    JOSEPH. 

must  do  thy  bidding."  So  it  is :  as  the  ancient  Joseph, 
according  to  the  saying  of-  holy  king  David,1  was  made 
by  Pharao  lord  of  all  his  house  and  ruler  over  all  his 
possessions,  so,  as  Holy  Church  teaches  us,  the  second 
Joseph  was  appointed  by  God  lord  of  all  His  House  and 
ruler  over  all  His  possessions;  and  so  much  the  more 
powerful,  the  richer,  and  the  more  exalted  as  the  House 
of  Nazareth  and  the  Catholic  Church  are  more  noble  and 
more  sublime  than  the  perishable  palace  of  Memphis, 
and  his  sway  the  more  extensive  in  as  much  as  the  pos- 
sessions of  God  in  the  whole  earth  are  vaster  than  were 
those  of  the  first  Joseph  in  the  land  of  Egypt. 

So  also  the  ring  placed  by  Pharao  on  Joseph's  finger 
was  the  sign  of  the  great  authority  conferred  on  our 
Joseph  by  God ;  the  silken  robe  typified  the  glorious  gifts 
with  which  his  pure  soul  would  one  day  be  invested ;  the 
chain  of  gold  was  the  symbol  of  that  intense  charity  with 
which  his  heart  was  ever  burning.  And  thus,  again,  was 
Joseph  elevated  above  the  other  saints,  and  raised,  as  it 
were,  on  a  glorious  chariot,  to  receive,  especially  in  these 
our  days,  the  praises  of  the  whole  earth ;  the  supreme 
lawgiver  of  the  Vatican,  the  immortal  Pius  IX.,  having 
proclaimed  to  the  world  that  all  are  to  bow  down  to 
Joseph,  for  that  God  has  exalted  him  to  the  patronage 
and  guardianship  of  the  Universal  Church. 

1  Psalm  civ.  21. 



OUK  compassionate  Lord  was  pleased  to  ordain  that 
the  ancient  Joseph  should  prefigure  our  glorious 
Patriarch  not  only  in  greatness  and  power,  but  also  in  his 
goodness,  the  gentleness  of  his  soul,  and  the  tenderness 
and  magnanimity  of  his  paternal  heart.  As  long  as  the 
seven  predicted  years  of  plenty  lasted  few  thought  about 
Joseph ;  and  possibly  some  may  have  scoffed  at  seeing 
him  so  intent  on  laying  up  so  large  a  quantity  of  corn  in 
the  great  storehouses  of  Egypt.  But  as  soon  as  the 
years  of  terrible  dearth  had  begun,  then  all  remembered 
Joseph,  and  from  all  quarters  men  came  to  Egypt  to  buy 
for  themselves  their  necessary  food.  And  when  the 
people  cried  out  to  Pharao  for  bread,  the  king  told  them 
to  go  to  Joseph,  and  to  do  all  that  he  should  say  to 
them ;  and  Joseph  opened  in  their  behalf  the  vast 
granaries  of  Egypt.1  Here  we  recognise  the  great  facility 
and  benignity  of  our  saint  in  assisting  those  who  in 
prosperous  times  ungratefully  forget  him.  As  the 
ancient  Joseph  laid  up  such  store  of  grain  that  he  might 
hereafter  provide  for  the  famishing  people,  so  also  did  our 
Joseph  during  his  lifetime  accumulate  such  great  store  of 
merit  that  he  might  hereafter  powerfully  aid  his  clients. 
For,  in  consideration  of  his  great  merits,  when  the  people, 

1  Gen.  xli.  55,  56. 

22  ST.    JOSEPH. 

afflicted  by  private  or  public  calamities,  raise  their  sup- 
pliant voices  to  Heaven  for  aid,  God  replies  :  "  Go  to 
Joseph,  and  do  whatever  he  enjoins  you  ".  Thus  Joseph, 
after  Mary,  is  appointed  the  perpetual  dispenser  of  all 
heavenly  favours ;  and,  more  generous  in  his  gifts  than 
the  ancient  Joseph,  he  opens  to  all  the  treasures  of 
divine  graces,  not  merely  such  as  are  earthly  and  tem- 
poral, but,  what  is  much  more,  those  which  are  spiritual 
and  eternal.  None  need  starve,  knowing  that  Joseph 
holds  open  to  them  all  the  riches  of  Divine  beneficence. 
And  this  would  seem  to  be  indicated  in  Holy  Scripture, 
where  it  is  said  that  in  Egypt,  that  is,  where  Joseph  was, 
there  was  bread  ;  but  everywhere  else,  that  is,  where  he 
was  not,  universal  death  prevailed.  How  greatly,  then, 
are  the  world  and  the  Church  indebted  to  St.  Joseph ; 
far  more  than  was  Egypt  to  the  ancient  patriarch  !  since, 
as  St.  Bernardine  of  Siena  says,  our  saint  has  not  merely 
provided  for  the  Egyptians  the  bread  which  sustains  the 
natural  life,  but  has  with  the  utmost  solicitude  nourished 
the  elect  with  the  Bread  of  Heaven  ;  to  wit,  the  most 
sweet  Jesus,  who  infuses  into  us  eternal  life.1  This, 
indeed,  is  distinctly  stated  and  set  forth  in  the  solemn 
decree  wherein  St.  Joseph  was  declared  by  our  late  holy 
Pontiff,  Pius  IX.,  Patron  of  the  Universal  Church. 

Further,  we  may  notice  how  the  ancient  Joseph 
treated  his  brethren,  whom  he  recognised  although  they 
knew  him  not ;  how  he  filled  their  sacks  with  corn,  and 
restored  to  them  the  price  of  it,  besides  giving  them 
abundance  of  provision  for  their  journey.  They  return, 
by  his  desire,  with  their  youngest  brother,  Benjamin,  in 
whom  we  see  a  figure  of  every  innocent  and  dear  client 
of  St.  Joseph.  At  the  very  sight  of  his  young  brother 
the  patriarch  is  inwardly  moved  to  tears,  and  says  to 
him  :  "  God  be  gracious  to  thee,  my  son  ".  But  for  all 

1  Sermo  i.  cle  S.  Joseph. 


he  orders  a  rich  banquet  to  be  prepared  in  his  apart- 
ments, and  finally,  unable  any  longer  to  restrain  the 
swelling  tide  of  his  love,  he  makes  himself  known  to  his 
brethren,  saying :  "I  am  Joseph,  your  brother.  Fear 
not ;  it  was  God  who  sent  me  before  you  for  your  preser- 
vation ;  it  was  God  who  made  me  as  it  were  a  father  to 
the  king ;  it  was  God  who  constituted  me  lord  over  all 
his  house,  and  governor  over  the  whole  land  of  Egypt." l 
So  saying,  he  presses  them  to  his  bosom,  he  sends  im- 
mediately for  his  father,  Jacob,  that  he  may  come  and 
share  in  his  joys  and  partake  of  his  goods.  He  presents 
to  Pharao  the  good  old  man,  his  father,  together  with  his 
brethren  and  their  families,  and  it  is  at  Joseph's  recom- 
mendation that  the  king  right  willingly  concedes  to  them 
the  fairest  and  richest  lands  of  Gessen.  Who  does  not 
herein  behold  a  picture  of  our  Joseph's  conduct  to  those 
who  are  devout  to  him?  He  grants  largely  to  them 
what  they  ask ;  nor  does  he  need  to  be  long  entreated ; 
he  does  not  sell  his  benefits, .  but  bountifully  adds  more 
than  he  is  asked.  As  he  receives  with  singular  affection 
the  innocent  and  implores  for  them  a  copious  measure  of 
Divine  mercy,  so  also  he  does  not  drive  away  the  guilty  who, 
repentant,  have  recourse  to  him,  but,  after  ingeniously 
causing  them  to  recognise  the  ruin  brought  about  by  sin, 
he  prepares  for  them  a  banquet  of  graces  ;  and  some- 
times in  the  midst  of  their  afflictions  makes  himself 
known  to  his  clients  by  such  an  abundance  of  heavenly 
consolations  as  to  move  them  to  tears  of  tenderness. 
"  Gome,"  he  says,  "  come  to  my  arms ;  I  am  Joseph, 
your  brother  ;  I  will  protect  you  ;  I  will  defend  you.  It 
is  God  who  placed  your  salvation  in  my  hands  ;  He  made 
me,  as  it  were,  father  to  the  King  of  kings ;  He  made  me 
the  reputed  father  of  Jesus ;  He  constituted  me  the 
patron  of  His  whole  House,  that  is,  of  the  Universal 

1  GeB.  xliv.  4-8. 

24  ST.    JOSEPH. 

Church,  the  sustaining  arm  of  all  the  earth."  Thus, 
fulfilling  his  great  office  of  loving  protector,  he  presses  all 
to  his  bosom ;  he  presents  them  before  the  throne  of 
God  ;  he  desires  to  save  their  entire  families,  and  obtains 
for  all  by  his  powerful  mediation  the  blessed  land  of 
saints,  Paradise. 

To  obtain  all  these  immense  advantages  by  means  of 
Joseph,  the  same  condition  must  be  observed  which  the 
king  of  Egypt  required  of  those  who  came  to  ask  for 
corn ;  namely,  that  they  should  strictly  do  what  Joseph 
enjoins  :  "  Go  to  Joseph  ;  and  do  all  that  he  shall  say  to 
you".1  God  imposes  the  same  condition  on  those  who 
would  obtain  graces  from  St.  Joseph;  they  must  promptly 
and  faithfully  do  what  he  bids  them.  And  what  else 
does  Joseph  tell  us,  both  by  word  and  example,  but  that 
we  should  fulfil  the  Divine  law,  even  as  he  fulfilled  it  ? 
Without  the  fulfilment  of  God's  commandments  it  is  vain 
to  hope  for  favours.  But  whosoever  fulfils  them  per- 
fectly, to  him  appertain,  no  doubt,  all  those  heavenly 
and  earthly  blessings  which  the  good  old  man,  Jacob,  at 
the  close  of  his  days  called  down  on  his  son  Joseph  : 
"  The  blessings  of  thy  father  are  strengthened  with  the 
blessings  of  his  fathers  :  until  the  desire  of  the  ever- 
lasting hills  should  come  ;  may  they  be  upon  the  head  of 
Joseph,  and  upon  the  crown  of  the  Nazarite  among  his 
brethren".2  This  prediction  of  Jacob  was  only  partially 
fulfilled  in  the  ancient  Joseph,  because  he  was  not  present, 
nor  could  he  be  present,  at  the  coming  of  the  Desire  of 
the  everlasting  hills,  the  expected  Messias.  It  was  fully 
accomplished  only  in  our  Joseph,  since  in  him  alone, 
according  to  the  Fathers,  were  summed  up  and  epito- 
mised all  the  blessings  and  all  the  virtues  of  the  patriarchs 
who  had  preceded  him  ;  and  Joseph  alone  had  the  ex- 
ceptional privilege  of  being  the  first,  after  Mary,  at  the 

1  Gen.  xli.  55.  n-  Ibid.  xlix.  26. 


birth  of  the  Desire  of  the  everlasting  hills,  the  first  to  see 
Him,  to  receive  Him  into,  his  arms,  to  embrace  Him, 
nurture  Him,  and  possess  Him  as  his  dearest  son.  This 
is  the  reason  why  Jacob  foretold  that  our  Joseph  would 
be  blessed  in  preference  to  all  his  brethren  ;  that  is,  that 
he  would  be  privileged  above  all  the  other  saints  on  earth 
and  in  Heaven.  And  it  is,  indeed,  most  consoling  for  us 
to  behold  this  heavenly  advocate  of  ours  so  clearly 
prefigured,  not  only  in  his  wisdom,  in  his  power,  and  in 
the  high  honour  and  esteem  he  enjoys  in  the  presence 
of  God,  but  also  in  the  readiness  and  solicitude  of  the 
great  charity  he  has  for  us,  qualities  which  all  combine 
to  render  his  patronage  most  valuable  and  efficacious. 
Wherefore,  if  he  undertakes  to  plead  our  cause  with  the 
Eternal  Judge,  we  are  safe,  we  have  won  our  suit. 

But  it  was  not  alone  in  the  person  of  the  ancient 
patriarch  Joseph  that  our  saint  was  prefigured.  We  may 
see  him  also  in  Abraham's  trusted  servant,  Eliezer,  whom 
he  sent  to  fetch  a  wife  for  his  son  Isaac  from  among  his 
own  kindred,  and  who  escorted  her  in  safety  to  her  new 
and  distant  home.1  As  Eebecca  was  a  type  of  the  Blessed 
Virgin,  so  was  Eliezer  a  type  of  St.  Joseph,  whose  office 
it  was  to  watch  over  'and  protect  his  immaculate  spouse 
during  a  large  proportion  of  her  stay  on  earth.  Again, 
in  Mardochai,  the  uncle  and  guardian  of  Queen  Esther, 
herself  also  a  figure  of  Mary,  we  cannot  fail  to  recognise 
a  typical  resemblance  to  the  holy  Joseph,  guardian  and 
protector  of  the  Queen  of  Saints  and  Virgin  Mother  of  the 
Incarnate  Son  of  God.2  Indeed  the  Fathers  of  the  Church 
and  other  spiritual  writers  have  seen  him  mys'tically 
represented  under  many  forms  and  in  many  passages  of 

1  Gen.  xxiv. 

2  For  the  last  two  illustrations  we  are  indebted  to  F.  Coleridge's 
admirable  chapter  on  "The  Spouse  of  Mary"  in  his  Preparation  of 
the  Incarnation,  a  work  of  which  we  cannot  speak  in  too  high  terms 
of  commendation. 

26  ST.    JOSEPH. 

Scripture.  Thus,  in  the  Canticles  it  is  said,  "  My 
Beloved  " — that  is,  Jesus—  "  feedeth  among  the  lilies  "  j1 
and  what  are  these  lilies  ?  asks  the  Abbot  Eupert.  Cer- 
tainly, after  Jesus,  there  are  none  purer  than  Mary  and 
Joseph,  nor  will  there  ever  be.  In  Genesis2  we  read  that 
the  patriarch  Jacob  beheld  in  a  dream  a  ladder  which 
reached  from  earth  to  Heaven ;  and  on  the  last  step  of 
this  ladder  the  Lord  Himself  was  leaning.  This  ladder 
is  Mary,  and  the  last  step  of  this  ladder,  says  the  same 
spiritual  writer,  is  Joseph,  on  whom  Jesus  Himself  in 
His  childhood  leaned.8  In  Abraham,  Sara,  arid  Isaac 
the  Fathers  recognise  the  Holy  Family  ;  that  is,  in 
Abraham  they  see  Joseph,  in  Sara  Mary,  in  Isaac  Jesus. 
Again,  God  willed  that  a  veil  of  violet,  purple,  and 
scarlet,  wrought  with  embroidery  and  goodly  variety, 
should  conceal  the  sacred  ark  from  the  profane,  and 
divide  the  sanctuary  from  the  holy  of  holies.  This 
mysterious. veil  was  a  figure  of  Joseph,  who  was  to  hide 
from  the  profane  the  heavenly  virginity  of  Mary  and  the 
Divine  origin  of  Jesus.  So  also  God  commanded  Moses 
to  construct  over  the  ark  the  propitiatory  of  purest  gold, 
and  to  place  two  cherubim  of  gold  at  the  sides,  which, 
extending  their  wings,  should  guard  and  cover  the  propi- 
tiatory.4 This  propitiatory  is  Jesus,  and  the  cherubim  of 
gold  are  Mary  and  Joseph,  who  guard,  protect,  and  have 
the  care  of  Jesus.  If  we  are  to  credit  the  writer  on 
Jewish  antiquities,  Arias  Mentanus,  one  of  these  cheru- 
bim had  the  form  of  a  beautiful  young  man,  and  the 
other  of  a  lovely  maiden.  The  prophet  Isaias  speaks  of 
a  sealed  book  placed  in  the  hands  of  one  who  is  learned, 
who,  being  bidden  to  read  it,  should  answer,  "  I  cannot, 
for  it  is  sealed  ".5  St.  John  Chrysostom,  commenting  on 
this  passage,  says  :  "  What  can  this  sealed  book  be  save 

1  Chap.  ii.  16.         2  Chap,  xxviii.  12,  13.          3  In  Matthceum,  cap.  i. 
4  Exod.  xxv.  18-20 ;  xxvi.  31-34  ;  xxxvii.  6-9.  5  Isaias  xxix.  11. 


the  most  immaculate  Virgin  ?  and  into  whose  care  should 
it  be  consigned?  Certainly  into  that  of  the  priests.  And 
to  whom  should  it  be  given  ?  To  the  artisan  Joseph." 
Isaias,  then,  prophesied  of  Joseph.  Further  on  also  he 
points  to  Joseph,  where  he  says  :  "  The  young  man  shall 
dwell  with  the  virgin ;  and  the  bridegroom  shall  rejoice 
over  the  bride"  i1  with  reference  to  which  Gerson  and 
others  say,  "  This  is  Joseph  with  Mary  ".2 

1  will  conclude  this  chapter  with  a  beautiful  explana- 
tion which  St.  Francis  de  Sales  has  left  us  in  his  Spiri- 
tual Conferences  of  a  passage  in  the  Canticles  which  gives 
great   honour   to    St.    Joseph.     In   the   said  book3   the 
August  Trinity,  gathered,  as  it  were,  in  council  for  the 
execution  of  the  great  mystery  of  the  Incarnation,  speak 
thus  :  "  Our  sister,. that  is,  Mary,  is  little,  that  is  to  say, 
most  humble,  and  she  is  an  immaculate  virgin.     What 
shall  We  do  to  our  sister  in  the  day  when  she  is  to  be 
spoken  to  for  marriage  ?     If  she  be  a  wall,  let  Us  build 
upon  it  bulwarks  of  silver;  if  she  be  a  door,  let  Us  join 
it  together  with  boards  of  cedar."     Thus  the  Mother  of 
God,  according  to  the  Divine  council,  was  to  be  a  virgin 
and  a  spouse  ;  and  her  spouse,  supereminently  chaste,  so 
far  from  being  in  the  least  degree  an  impediment  to  her 
virginity,  was  to  guard  and  protect  it,  rendering  it  freer 
and  more  secure,  and  sheltered  from  every  external  con- 
tradiction.    So  that,  if  Mary  by  her  vow  of  virginity 
should  have  raised,  as  it  were,  before  her  a  golden  wall 
of  defence,  God,  to  tranquillise  her  still  further,  gave  her 
as  her  spouse  St.  Joseph,  who  was  to  be  to  her  on  all  oc- 
casions as  a  bulwark  of  silver ;  and,  though  this  House  of 
Gold  was  closed  with  an  adamantine  door,  God,  in  giving 
her  Joseph,  strengthened  it  with  an  incorruptible  defence. 
Hence  St.  Francis  de  Sales  says  :  "  What  is  the  glorious 

1  Chap.  Ixii.  5. 

2  Quoted  by  Trombelli,  Vita  e  Culto  di  S.  Giuseppe,  p.  i.  c.  viii.  n.  5. 

3  Chap.  viii.  8,  9. 

28  ST.    JOSEPH. 

St.  Joseph  but  a  strong  bulwark  for  our  Blessed  Lady  ? 
Joseph  was  given  to  her  as  a  companion  in  order  that  her' 
purity  might  be  more  marvellously  protected  in  its  in- 
tegrity under  the  veil  and  shadow  of  holy  matrimony. 
If  the  Virgin  be  a  door,  said  the  Eternal  Father,  We  do 
not  choose  that  the  door  should  be  open,  because  it  is  the 
eastern  door  through  which  no  one  can  enter  or  pass ; 1 
therefore  is  it  needful  to  fortify  it  with  incorruptible 
wood,  that  is,  give  her  a  companion  in  purity,  even  the 
great  Patriarch  St.  Joseph,  who  for  this  reason  was  to 
surpass  all  the  saints  and  angels,  and  the  very  cherubim 
themselves,  in  that  eminent  virtue  of  virginity." 2 

1  Ezek.  xliv.  1,  2.  2  Entretien,  xix. 



IT  is  certainly  a  great  glory  to  come  of  an  ancient  and 
a  noble  race,  particularly  when  to  this  high  lineage  is 
united  the  memory  of  great  deeds  and  integrity  of  life ; 
and,  although  there  is  no  virtue  in  being  born  great,  yet 
may  it  greatly  conduce  to  virtue.  Nobility  of  birth  is  a 
boon  from  the  Supreme  Giver  of  all  good  not  conceded  to 
all,  in  which,  nevertheless,  its  recipients  must  not  take 
pride,  but  of  which  they  must  strive  to  profit,  if  they  wish 
to  become  themselves  worthy  of  honour  and  veneration. 
Hence  we  find  Holy  Scripture  exciting  us  to  praise  these 
.noble  and  holy  personages  who  in  their  generation  were 
truly  glorious.1  Now,  among  all  who  deserve  to  be  eulo- 
gised for  their  noble  and  exalted  ancestry,  the  first  in 
rank,  after  Jesus  and  Mary,  is,  no  doubt,  our  great 
Patriarch  St.  Joseph.  It  is  necessary,  therefore,  to  ex- 
hibit his  high  genealogy  with  all  possible  clearness, 
solving  all  the  doubts  connected  with  it  which  might 
occur  to  the  mind,  that  we  may  thus  perceive  how  egre- 
giously  those  err  who  regard  St.  Joseph  as  a  poor  plebeian, 
and  hold  him  to  have  been  a  rough  and  ignoble  artisan. 

Joseph  an  ignoble  plebeian  !  There  is  not  in  the  whole 
world  a  more  splendid  genealogy  than  was  his ;  among 
all  the  monarchs  of  the  earth  there  is  none  to  compare 
with  him.  God  Himself  desired  that  he  should  be  thus 
privileged  amongst  the  kings  and  patriarchs  of  the  old 

1  Ecclus.  xliv.  1-8. 

30  ST.   JOSEPH. 

covenant,  because  the  glory  and  splendour  of  his  genea- 
logy was  to  be  wholly  reflected  upon  Jesus  and  upon  His 
Blessed  Mother.  The  documents  which  record  it  are 
irrefragable,  and  its  proofs  unquestionable ;  for  they  rest, 
not  on  the  testimony  of  men,  but  on  that  of  God.  God 
Himself,  by  means  of  His  Evangelists,  has  been  pleased 
accurately  to  enumerate  all  the  generations  which  led  in 
a  direct  line  from  Abraham  to  Joseph.  The  antiquity  of 
a  family  is  estimated  by  the  uninterrupted  number  of 
ancestors  it  can  reckon  up  to  the  remote  stem  from  which 
it  traces  its  origin.  But  what  scion  of  a  noble  family 
can  in  this  respect  compete  with  Joseph?  St.  Matthew, 
descending  from  Abraham,  through  David,  to  Joseph, 
registers  forty  generations  ;  and  St.  Luke,  ascending  from 
Joseph  to  Adam,  counts  as  many  as  seventy-four. 

It  would,  however,  be  of  little  value  that  a  pedigree 
should  be  ancient,  unless  it  were  rendered  illustrious  by 
persons  of  noble  rank  and  exalted  dignity.  Now,  in  the 
lineage  of  Joseph  we  find  the  most  celebrated  patriarchs, 
as  Abraham  ;  the  greatest  legislators  and  leaders  of  the 
people,  as  Zorobabel ;  the  wisest  and  most  renowned- 
monarchs,  as  David  and  Solomon.  And,  if  the  great- 
ness and  the  power  of  his  ancestors  went  on  diminish- 
ing after  the  return  from  the  Babylonian  captivity 
even  to  the  time  when  the  sceptre  of  Juda  was  usurped 
by  an  idolatrous  and  foreign  king,  as  was  Herod  of  As- 
calon,  nevertheless  Joseph  still  remained  the  rightful 
successor  and  heir  of  the  kings  of  Juda,  as  being  de- 
scended from  the  family  of  David.  On  the  other  hand, 
the  sceptre  of  Juda,  according,  to  the  famous  prophecy  of 
Jacob,1  was  to  be  taken  away,  and  to  have  ceased  to  be 
at  the  coming  of  the  Messias ;  its  failure,  indeed,  was  to 
be  the  manifest  sign  of  the  coming  of  the  Redeemer. 
Now,  this  removal  of  authority  from  God's  chosen  people 

1  Gen.  xlix.  10. 


occurred  precisely  at  the  period  when  Joseph  appeared 
in  the  world,  to  be,  as  it  were,  the  forerunner  and  the 
herald  of  the  great  Messias,  who  was  to  found  a  new 
kingdom,  to  wit,  the  Catholic  Church,  which  was  to 
"  stand  for  ever".1 

But  Joseph  was  not  glorious  solely  because  the  pure 
blood  of  the  kings  of  Juda  circulated  in  his  veins,  since 
others  of  the  same  stock  could  claim  a  like  honour,  but 
he  was  specially  glorious  in  being,  so  to  say,  the  last 
link  of  the  regal  genealogy  which  through  his  spouse 
united  him  to  the  King  of  kings ;  he  closed  the  line  of 
the  ancestors  of  the  great  Messias,  and  beheld  under  his 
roof  Him  who  was  the  Desired  of  all  nations,  the  end  and 
consummation  of  the  law,  born  of  his  race  and  the  Child 
of  his  Virgin  Spouse. 

Thus  the  genealogy  of  Joseph  was  to  comprise  the 
genealogy  of  Mary,  his  spouse,  and  also  that  of  Jesus.  For 
whence  do  we  learn  the  genealogy  of  Jesus  and  Mary 
but  from  that  of  Joseph?  He  may  be  said  to  be  its 
guardian,  its  depositary,  its  vindicator,  its  juridical  wit- 
ness. The  Eternal  Father  had  decreed  that  Jesus  should 
l>e  born  of  the  tribe  of  Juda,  of  the  race  of  David,  and 
that  He  should  have  no  earthly  father,  but  be  born  of  a 
most  pure  Virgin.  In  order,  then,  to  fulfil  this  great 
counsel,  He  ordained  that  Joseph,  the  descendant  of  Juda 
and  of  David,  should  be  espoused  to  Mary ;  and  that  of 
Mary,  through  the  operation  of  the  Holy  Ghost,  should 
be  born  Jesus.  The  Evangelists,  following  the  custom  of 
the  Hebrews,  who  were  not  wont  to  give  the  genealogies 
of  women,  have  not  expressly  left  us  the  genealogy  of 
Mary ;  and,  as  they  could  not  give  the  direct  genealogy 
of  Jesus  on  the  paternal  side,  since  He  had  no  earthly 
father,  how  were  they  to  make  it  known  save  through  the 
genealogy  of  Joseph  ?  The  Old  Law  provided  that  men 

1  Dan.  ii.  44. 

32  ST.    JOSEPH. 

were  to  intermarry  with  their  own  tribe  and  kin,  and  the 
women  also,  particularly  if  they  had  possessions,  in  order 
that  their  inheritance  might  not  pass  out  of  the  family.1 
So  that  by  the  fact  of  knowing  that  Mary  was  the  spouse 
of  Joseph,  we  know  also  that  she  was  of  the  tribe  of  Juda 
and  of  the  race  of  David ;  and  thus  that  Jesus,  her  Divine 
Son,  was  also  of  the  same  tribe  and  race.  It  is  a  great 
glory  to  St.  Joseph  that  his  genealogy  should  serve  to 
make  known  to  us  those  of  Jesus  and  Mary,  and  should 
be,  in  fact,  so  identified  with  them  as  to  be  even  called 
by  the  Evangelist  the  genealogy  of  Jesus :  "  The  book 
of  the  generation  of  Jesus  Christ,  the  Son  of  David  ".2 
St.  Bernardine  of  Siena,  then,  justly  observes  that  the 
nobility  of  St.  Joseph  was  so  great  that,  if  we  may 
be  allowed  to  say  so,  he,  in  a  certain  sense,  conferred 
temporal  nobility  on  God  Himself  in  the  Person  of  our 
Lord  Jesus  Christ.3 

Although  Mary's  genealogy  is  not  expressly  mentioned, 
but  has  been  sheltered  under  that  of  her  holy  spouse,  it 
is  really  given ;  and,  were  this  fact  not  recognised,  serious 
difficulties  would  arise  from  the  difference  between  the 
two  genealogies,  as  recorded  by  the  Evangelists  St. 
Matthew  and  St.  Luke.  St.  Matthew,  who  wrote  his 
Gospel,  about  eight  years  after  the  death  of  Jesus,  for  the 
benefit  of  the  first  Christian  converts  from  Judaism,  enu- 
merates in  direct  descent  the  generations  between  Abra- 
ham and  Joseph,  that  is,  from  Abraham  to  Juda,  from 
Juda  to  David,  and  from  David,  through  Solomon,  Eo- 
boam,  Jechonias,  down  to  the  transmigration  of  Babylon ; 
and  then  from  Jechonias  to  Mathan,  who  was  the  father 
of  Jacob,  "who  begat  Joseph,  the  husband  of  Mary,  of 
whom  was  born  Jesus,  who  is  called  Christ ''.  On  the 
other  hand,  St.  Luke,  the  associate  of  St.  Paul's  travels, 
who  wrote  his  Gospel  about  twenty  years  after  our  Lord's 

1  Numb,  xxxvi  6-9.      2  St.  Matthew  i.  1.      3  Sermo  de  St.  Joseph. 


Ascension,  traced  the  genealogy  of  Joseph  in  an  upward 
line,  giving  different  names  to  his  father  and  many  of 
his  ancestors  from  those  assigned  by  St.  Matthew.  This 
is  the  form  in  which  he  casts  it :  he  says  that  Jesus  was 
beginning  to  be  about  thirty  years  of  age,  being,  as  was 
supposed,  the  son  of  Joseph,  who  was  of  Heli,  and  Heli 
of  Mathat,  and  so  on  up  to  Nathan,  the  son  of  David. 
From  him  he  mounts  up  to  Juda,  and  from  Juda  to  Abra- 
ham ;  but  he  does  not  stop  there :  he  continues  to  ascend 
to  Noe,  and  from  him,  through  the  antediluvian  patriarchs, 
until  he  reaches  Seth,  "  who  was  of  Adam,  who  was  of 
God".1  Now,  how  is  it  possible  that  the  Evangelists 
should  contradict  each  other  ?  Or,  again,  how  would  it 
be  possible  that  Joseph  should  have  two  genealogies,  and 
be  at  the  same  time  the  son  of  Jacob,  according  to  St. 
Matthew,  and  the  son  of  Heli,  according  to  St.  Luke? 
We  proceed  to  solve  this  difficulty. 

1  St.  Luke  iii.  23-38. 



THE  Emperor  Julian,  the  Apostate,  blasphemously 
declared  that  in  tracing  the  genealogy  of  Joseph 
the  Evangelists  had  shown  themselves  either  dolts  or 
liars.  Kather  it  is  he  who  was  both  dolt  and  liar,  who 
denied  the  faith,  turned  back  to  an  inane  idolatry,  and 
persecuted  the  Church  of  Christ.  The  Evangelists,  in- 
spired by  the  Spirit  of  God,  who  is  the  Spirit  of  wisdom, 
of  truth,  and  of  unity,  could  neither  err,  nor  lie,  nor 
contradict  each  other.  It  is,  therefore,  impossible  that 
there  should  be  a  shadow  of  disagreement  between  them. 
Moreover,  since  St.  Luke  wrote  considerably  later  than 
St.  Matthew,  and  had  therefore  seen  his  Gospel,  which 
was  already  circulated  among  the  Christian  converts, 
how  is  it  conceivable  that  he  should  make  contradictory 
statements  in  his  own  Gospel  ?  The  contradiction  can 
only  be  apparent ;  it  is  impossible  that  it  should  be  real, 
and  equally  impossible  that  Joseph  could  have  had  two 
genealogies  and  two  natural  fathers,  Jacob  and  Heli.  It 
remains  to  see  in  what  sense  each  of  the  Evangelists 

By  generation,  of  course,  Joseph  could  have  but  one 
true  and  natural  father,  and  this  father,  according  to  St. 
Matthew,  was  Jacob  :  "  Mathan,"  he  says,  "  begat 
Jacob,  and  Jacob  begat  Joseph,"  thus  asserting  that 
Jacob  was  his  father  in  the  strict  sense  of  the  term.  But 
St.  Luke  expresses  himself  in  a  different  manner ;  he 
says,  "  Joseph  was  of  Heli,"  not  that  Heli  begat  Joseph, 


even  as  at  the  close  of  the  genealogy  he  says,  "  Adam 
was  of  God  "  ;  and  we  know  that,  although  God  was  the 
father  of  Adam,  it  was  not  by  generation.  We  conclude, 
then,  that  when  the  Evangelist  places  Heli  in  the  position 
of  Joseph's  progenitor,  he  is  understanding  the  parentage 
in  a  wider  sense,  and  must  mean  that  Heli  was  his 
legal  father,  his  father  by  appellation,  by  affinity,  by 
affection,  as  we  shall  see  that  he  really  was.  Thus  there 
is  no  contradiction  between  the  two  Evangelists  :  the 
true  and  legitimate  father  of  St.  Joseph  was  Jacob, 
according  to  St.  Matthew's  Gospel,  and  his  father  legally 
and  by  affinity  was  Heli,  according  to  St.  Luke.  And  in 
this  all  the  Fathers  and  Doctors  of  the  Church  are  agreed. 
But  what  was  the  object  of  bringing  Heli  forward? 
What  was  St.  Luke's  purpose  in  informing  us  that 
Joseph  had,  besides  his  true  father,  a  father  according  to 
law,  particularly  as  the  Evangelist  does  not  explain  the 
nature  of  this  legal  relationship  ?  God  does  nothing 
without  a  purpose,  and  whatever  we  find  in  Holy  Scrip- 
ture has  its  just  object  and  aim,  and  is  written  for  our 
instruction.  If,  therefore,  God  inspired  St.  Luke  to 
state  the  genealogy  of  Joseph  in  this  wise,  we  may  rest 
assured  that  it  was  with  a  view  to  His  own  glory  and  to 
our  profit.  As  it  was  needful  that  St.  Matthew  should 
give  us  the  natural  genealogy  of  Joseph,  so  it  was  also 
needful,  perhaps  more  needful,  that  St.  Luke  should  give 
us  his  legal  genealogy ;  and  if  he  has  not  explained  in 
what  manner  Joseph  was  legally  the  son  of  Heli,  this 
was  because  the  principal  object  of  the  Evangelists  was, 
not  to  write  the  life  of  Joseph,  but  to  manifest  the  Life 
and  Character  of  the  Messias ;  and  of  Him,  indeed,  they  did 
not  write  everything,  and  what  they  did  write  was  very 
brief,  omitting  much  ;  for,  as  St.  John  says,  if  all  had 
been  written,  the  whole  world,  he  thought,  could  not 
have  contained  the  books  which  must  have  been  written.1 
1  St.  John  xxi.  25. 

36  ST.    JOSEPH. 

The  remainder  was  left  to  tradition,  that  is,  to  the  teaching 
of  those  Churches  where  the  Gospel  was  preached,  and  to 
the  Fathers  and  Doctors,  who  should  explain,  according 
to  the  sense  of  the  Church,  what  is  wanting  in  Holy 

To  understand,  therefore,  in  what  manner  Joseph  is 
the  son  of  Heli  let  us  refer  to  the  Doctors  of  Holy 
Church.  We  find  them  expressing  two  chief  opinions  on 
this  subject.  The  first  is  that  of  Julius  Africanus,  ac- 
cording to  whom  Heli,  of  whom  St.  Luke  speaks,  took  a 
wife  and  died,  leaving  no  children.  Now,  the  law  pro- 
vided that  in  such  a  case  the  widow  could  oblige  the 
brother  of  her  deceased  husband  to  marry  her,  in  order 
to  raise  up  children  to  him.  The  widow  of  Heli,  there- 
fore, according  to  those  who  maintain  this  opinion,  would 
have  appealed  to  Jacob,  whom  they  suppose  to  be  Heli's 
brother,  to  take  her  in  marriage,  and  thus  Joseph,  their 
child,  was  naturally  the  son  of  Jacob,  but  legally  the  son 
of  Heli.  This  opinion  had  followers  even  among  the 
Fathers  ;  and  it  cannot  be  denied  that  it  was  the  most 
commonly  adopted.1  Nevertheless,  be  it  said  with  all 
respect  for  those  who  professed  it,  this  opinion,  while 
on  the  one  hand  it  involves  no  slight  difficulties,  on  the 
other  appears  to  add  nothing  of  importance  to  the  genea- 
logy of  Joseph,  or  to  that  of  Mary  and  Jesus. 

As  regards  the  difficulties,  it  is  well  to  quote  the  words 
of  Scripture  upon  which  this  view  is  grounded.  "  When 
brethren  dwell  together,  and  one  of  them  dieth  without 
children,  the  wife  of  the  deceased  shall  not  marry  to 
another :  but  his  brother  shall  take  her,  and  raise  up  seed 
for  his  brother  :  and  the  first  son  he  shall  have  of  her 
he  shall  call  by  his  [brother's]  name,  that  his  name  be 
not  abolished  out  of  Israel."2  It  is  question,  then,  of 

1  It  is  the  one  adopted  in  the  Douai  Version  of  the  Bible. 
2  Deut.  xxv.  5,  6. 

SON   OF   JACOB  AND    SON   OP   HELI.  37 

brethren  dwelling  together  ;  and  it  is  prescribed  that  the 
first  son  that  shall  be  born  shall  receive  the  name  of  the 
deceased  brother.  But  nothing  of  all  this  do  we  meet 
with  in  the  case  before  us.  Jacob  and  Heli  could  not  be 
brethren  by  birth,  seeing  that,  according  to  the  Gospel, 
they  had  neither  the  same  father  nor  the  same  grand- 
father ;  for  we  learn  from  St.  Matthew  that  the  father  of 
Jacob  was  Mathan,  the  son  of  Eleazar,  and  from  St. 
Luke  that  Heli  was  of  Mathat,  who  was  of  Levi.  Neither 
are  we  told  that  they  lived  together  ;  on  the  contrary,  it 
appears  that,  although  they  were  of  the  same  tribe  and 
race,  their  families  were  distinct,  since  Jacob  descended 
from  David  by  Solomon,  and  Heli  by  Nathan.  What 
possible  obligation,  therefore,  could  bind  Jacob  to  marry 
Heli's  widow  ? 

However,  setting  aside  this  difficulty  and  supposing 
that  he  had  married  her,  he  was  bound,  according  to  the 
law,  to  give  his  first-born  son  the  name  of  his  deceased 
brother.  But  we  find,  on  the  contrary,  that  Jacob  called 
his  son  Joseph,  not  Heli.  For  these  reasons,  the  above- 
mentioned  opinion  seems  to  want  a  sufficiently  solid  basis. 

Let  us  now  consider  what  importance  it  would  add  to 
the  genealogy  of  Mary  and  Jesus,  which  is  precisely  what 
the  Evangelists  desired  to  place  in  a  clear  light  by  tracing 
the  genealogy  of  Joseph.  As  it  was  known  that  women 
could  not,  ordinarily,  be  married  to  any  save  men  of  their 
own  tribe  and  race,  it  was  sufficient  that  St.  Matthew 
alone  should  have  informed  us  that  Joseph,  born  of 
Jacob,  was  of  the  tribe  of  Juda  and  house  of  David  for 
us  to  have  drawn  the  conclusion  that  Mary,  his  wife,  was 
also  of  the  same  tribe  and  race.  What  need  was  there 
that  St.  Luke  should  afterwards  tell  us  that  he  was  also 
legally  the  son  of  Heli  ?  Of  what  interest  was  this  fact 
as  regarded  Mary's  genealogy,  or  what  fresh  light  did  it 
throw  on  the  genealogy  of  Jesus  ?  If  Heli  had  no  rela- 
1  tionship  with  Mary,  and  was  not  in  a  direct  line  of 

38  ST.    JOSEPH. 

descent  with  her,  of  whom  alone  was  to  be  born  Jesus  of 
the  tribe  of  Juda  and  race  of  David,  what  did  it  matter 
to  us  to  know  that  he  was  legally  Joseph's  father  ?  This 
being  the  case,  we  readily  adhere  to  the  second  opinion, 
which  confers  a  new  and  great  importance  on  the  genea- 
logy of  Joseph  as  traced  by  St.  Luke.1 

Now,  according  to  this  second  view,  the  Heli  men- 
tioned by  St.  Luke  is  no  other  than  the  glorious  St. 
Joachim,  the  happy  father  of  the  august  Queen  of  Heaven 
and  earth,  Mary.  This  opinion  is  alluded  to  by  St.  Au- 
gustine ; 2  it  was  held  by  the  author  of  the  Sermon  on 
the  Nativity  of  the  Virgin  attributed  to  St.  Jerome  ;  and 
it  was  entertained  and  discussed  by  the  celebrated  Mel- 
chior  Cano,8  by  Calmet,  by  Cornelius  a  Lapide,  and 
various  others.  The  reasons  alleged  in  favour  of  this 
view  are  the  following.  All  interpreters  are  agreed  in 
reckoning  the  three  names  Heli,  Eliachim,  and  Joachim 
as  synonymous,  and  as  being  so  used  in  Scripture.  Thus 
in  the  fourth  Book  of  Kings  we  read  that  the  king  of 

1  Leaving  in  the  text  the  arguments  adduced  by  the  Canon 
Antonio  Vitali  against  the  solidity  of  the  earliest  opinions  held  on 
this  subject,  and  without  pretending  to  choose  between  them  and 
those  of  more  recent  date,  it  is  only  fair  to  state  that  among  the 
doctors  who  embraced  the  opinion  of  Julius  Africanus  are  to  be 
found  some  who,  to  obviate  the  difficulty  suggested  by  the  Canon 
that  St.  Luke's  genealogy  would,  according  to  this  view,  add 
nothing  of  interest  to  that  of  Mary,  say  that  Jacob  and  Heli  were 
brothers  on  the  maternal,  but  not  on  the  paternal,  side,  the  former 
of  whom  by  his  first  wife  was  father  of  Joachim,  the  father  of  Mary, 
and  of  Cleophas,  called  also  Alpheus,  who  was  the  father  of  James 
the  Less,  Simon,  Joseph,  and  Judas  named  Thaddeus.  Jacob's 
brother  Heli  having  died  without  children,  he,  in  accordance  with 
legal  custom,  married  his  widow,  of  whom  he  had  a  third  son,  called 
Joseph.  Joachim  and  Joseph,  therefore,  according  to  this  view, 
were  brethren  on  the  father's  side,  and  Joseph  was  uncle  to  Mary  ; 
so  that  both  the  Evangelists,  the  one  giving  Joseph's  descent 
through  Jacob,  his  true  father,  from  Solomon,  and  the  other 
through  his  father-in-law  Heli,  from  Nathan,  trace  substantially 
the  genealogy  of  both  Mary  and  Joseph,  and  consequently  of  the 
Saviour,  according  to  the  flesh. 

2  Qucest.  Evangel,  ii.  q.  v.      Vet  et  Nov.  Testam.  q.  Ivi. 
3  Loc.  Theol.  lib.  ii.  cap.  v. 

SON    OF   JACOB   AND    SON   OF   HELI.  39 

Egypt  changed  the  name  of  Eliachim,  the  son  of  Josias, 
into  Joakim ;  and  we  find  the  same  statement  in  the 
second  Book  of  Paralipomenon.1  Philo  Anianus  also 
(quoted  by  Melchior  Cano)  informs  us  that  with  the 
Syrians  and  Egyptians  the  names  Joachim,  Eliachim,  and 
Heli  were  synonymous.  Heli  was  but  an  abbreviation 
of  Eliachim.  If,  then,  the  Heli  of  St.  Luke  be  in  fact 
Joachim,  the  father  of  Mary,  the  Evangelist  had  every 
right  to  say  that  Joseph  was  of  Heli,  that  is,  not  his  son 
by  nature,  but  his  son  by  affinity,  his  son-in-law,  being  the 
husband  of  Joachim's  daughter,  since  it  is  usual  thus  to 
express  this  relationship,  and  in  this  way  he  would  have 
traced  for  us  Mary's  genealogy  without  departing  from 
the  custom  of  the  Hebrews,  which  was  never  to  give 
genealogies  on  the  woman's  side.  Melchior  Cano 
observes,  indeed,  that  those  words,  "  who  was  of  Heli," 
may  refer  rather  to  Jesus  than  to  Joseph,  and  then  the 
sense  would  run  thus :  Jesus,  who  was  reputed  the  son 
of  Joseph,  was  not  of  him,  but  of  Heli,  since,  being  born, 
without  man's  intervention,  of  His  Virgin  Mother  alone, 
there  was  no  one  on  earth  of  whom  He  could  naturally 
be  said  to  be  the  son  except  Heli,  or  Joachim,  who  was 
His  grandfather  according  to  the  flesh.  And,  in  order  to 
create  no  surprise  by  passing  straight  from  the  grandson 
to  the  grandfather,  the  Evangelist  at  once  assigns  the 
reason,  in  that  Joseph  was  not  truly  the  father  of  Jesus, 
but  only  his  putative  father. 

Thus,  then,  we  learn  that  Jesus,  born  of  the  Virgin 
Mary,  the  daughter  of  Heli  or  Joachim,  was  truly  of  the 
tribe  of  Juda  and  descended  in  a  direct  line  from  David 
through  his  son  Nathan,  as  Joseph,  his  reputed  father, 
had  the  same  descent  through  Solomon,  Moreover,  we 
have  reason  to  believe  that  it  was  not  through  Joseph's 
genealogy  alone  that  Jesus  was  the  descendant  of 
Solomon,  for  Benedict  XIII.,  in  one  of  his  Sermons  on 
1  4  Kings  xxiii.  34 ;  2  Paralip.  xxxvi.  4. 

40  ST.    JOSEPH. 

the  Life  of  Mary,1  following  in  this  opinion  Cornelius  a 
Lapide,  Menochius,  and  others,  maintains  that  St.  Anne, 
wife  of  St.  Joachim  and  the  happy  mother  of  Mary,  was 
sister  to  Jacob,  the  father  of  St.  Joseph  :  whence  it 
follows  that  Mary  was  Joseph's  cousin,  and  on  her 
maternal  side  had  the  same  regal  descent  from  David 
through  Solomon  as  Joseph  had. 

From  all  that  has  been  said  we  must  conclude  that 
Joseph's  genealogy  is  singularly  glorious,  not  merely  as 
illustrated  by  an  uninterrupted  series  of  patriarchs,  kings, 
and  renowned  princes,  but  because  it  served  to  form  and 
include  the  genealogy  of  the  Mother  of  God  and  of  the 
Divine  Redeemer  Himself.  Well  may  the  crowned 
monarchs  of  earth  bow  their  heads  before  St.  Joseph,  who 
for  nobility  of  birth  and  ancestral  glory  far  surpasses 
them  all.  His  hand  is  more  than  worthy  to  grasp  a 
regal  sceptre  and  his  head  to  be  encircled  with  an 
imperial  diadem.  Call  him  no  longer  a  plebeian,  a 
common  artisan.  In  him  God  has  been  pleased  both  to 
exalt  nobility  and  to  ennoble  the  labour  of  the  artisan. 
St.  Joseph  is  the  glory  of  nobles  and  the  consolation  of 
workmen  ;  he  is  the  condemnation  of  those  modern 
sectaries  who,  born  of  ignoble  blood,  desire  to  reduce  all 
to  one  vulgar  level,  destroying  every  distinction  of  name, 
rank,  or  property,  by  which  process  society  itself  would 
soon  be  entirely  destroyed.  Let  us  fervently  beg  our 
exalted  Patron,  St.  Joseph,  by  his  powerful  intercession 
to  save  the  Church,  the  family,  and  society  from  such 
pernicious  foes. 

1  Sermo  ii. 


(41  ) 


Fis  now  an  article  of  our  faith  that  the  Blessed  Virgin 
by  a  singular  privilege  was  prevented  by  grace  and 
preserved  in  entire  immunity  from  original  sin.  From 
Holy  Scripture  we  also  learn  that  some  souls  through  the 
divine  predilection,  as  those  of  Jeremias  and  of  the  Bap- 
tist, were  sanctified  before  they  saw  the  light  of  day. 
Now,  what  shall  we  say  of  Joseph  ?  Since  in  dignity  and 
holiness  he  is  inferior  to  Mary,  we  cannot  assume  with 
any  certainty  that  God  granted  to  him  the  same  privilege 
as  to  her ;  and  the  Church  has  never  made  any  utterance 
on  the  subject.  Still,  Joseph  surpasses  all  the  other 
saints  in  dignity  and  sanctity ;  we  are,  therefore,  free  to 
conjecture  that,  although  this  is  not  signified  in  Scripture, 
he  must  have  been  sanctified  before  his  birth  earlier  than 
any  of  them,  for  all  the  holy  doctors  agree  in  saying  that 
there  was  no  grace  conceded  to  any  other  saint,  except 
Mary,  which  was  not  granted  to  Joseph.  As  Mary, 
above  all,  was  nearest  to  Jesus,  so  Joseph  was  nearest  to 
Mary;  and  for  the  sake  of  Jesus,  and  also  for  Mary's 
sake,  we  may  justly  conclude  that  to  Joseph  must  have 
been  conceded  a  privilege  second  only  to  hers. 

We  have  shown  what  a  great  end  God  had  in  view  in 
the  creation  of  St.  Joseph,  who  was  to  be  associated  with 
the  mystery  of  the  Incarnation,  and  was  thus  comprised 
in  the  decree  of  man's  redemption.  Hence  it  is  that  he 
was  pre-announced  in  Holy  Scripture,  and  ennobled  with 
so  high  a  genealogy.  Now,  in  order  to  correspond  to  so 

42  ST.    JOSEPH. 

lofty  a  vocation,  which,  after  that  of  the  Virgin  Mother, 
was  superior  to  all  others,  whether  of  angels  or  saints, 
Joseph  must  needs  have  been  sanctified  in  a  most  eminent 
degree,  that  he  might  be  worthy  to  take  his  place  in  this 
most  sublime  order  of  the  Hypostatic  Union,  in  which 
Jesus  held  the  first  place  and  Mary  the  second.  And, 
indeed,  we  find  it  to  be  the  constant  doctrine  of  St. 
Thomas  Aquinas,  as  well  as  of  all  the  Fathers,  that 
those  whom  God  elects  and  designs  for  some  great  work, 
He  also  prepares  and  disposes  so  as  to  fit  them  for  its 
performance ;  and  the  Angelic  Doctor  adds  that  God  gives 
to  each  grace  proportioned  to  the  office  which  he  is  chosen 
to  fill.1  St.  Bernardine  of  Siena  lays  down  the  same 
doctrine,  and  he  then  proceeds  to  say  that  this  was  veri- 
fied in  the  person  of  St.  Joseph,  who  was  the  reputed 
father  of  Jesus,  the  true  spouse  of  the  Queen  of  the  world 
and  Lady  of  angels,  and  was  elected  by  the  Eternal 
Father  to  be  the  faithful  guardian  of  His  two  greatest 
treasures.2  If,  then,  Joseph  was  elected  to  such  an 
office,  which,  after  the  divine  maternity,  has  none  to  equal 
it  in  Heaven  or  on  earth,  he  must  have  received  of  God 
for  its  discharge  a  fulness  of  corresponding  grace,  superior 
to  that  vouchsafed  to  any  other  saint. 

The  election  of  God  is  from  eternity,  but  sanctification 
takes  place  in  time ;  and  this  sanctification  is  not  accom- 
plished in  all  at  the  same  hour.  With  some  it  has  been 
late,  as  with  St.  Paul.  Some  have  been  sanctified  at  the 
sixth  hour,  some  at  the  third,  some  at  the  first  hour,  and 
some  even  before  birth,  as  in  the  cases  just  mentioned  of 
Jeremias  and  the  Baptist.  This  is  a  marvellous  effect  of 
the  Divine  Goodness,  loving  to  communicate  Itself  to  a 
soul  as  early  as  possible  and  with  the  greatest  abundance 
of  Its  gifts.  But  to  whom  more  than  to  St.  Joseph  can 
It  have  loved  thus  to  communicate  Itself  ?  In  his  case 
truly  may  we  apply  the  words  of  the  Psalmist :  "  Thou 
1  Summa,  p.  iii.  q.  xxvii.  a.  4.  2  Scrmo  i.  de  St.  Joseph. 


hast  prevented  him  with  blessings  of  sweetness;  Thou 
hast  set  on  his  head  a  crown  of  precious  stones".1  The 
grace  of  the  Holy  Spirit  can  have  tolerated  no  delay  in 
him,  and,  since  God  had  prepared  for  Joseph  the  greatest 
grace  of  sanctification  after  Mary,  He  would  not  have 
awaited  his  birth  to  take  possession  of  his  soul,  but  in 
virtue  of  the  merits  of  Jesus  Christ,  who  was  to  be  his 
reputed  son,  would  have  diffused  into  his  heart  such  a 
flood  of  grace  even  from  his  mother's  womb  as  to  efface 
every  stain  of  original  sin  and  array  it  with  the  most 
splendid  gifts,  fitting  it  to  be  the  abode  of  the  Divine 

There  are  two  ways  in  which  this  sanctification  might 
be  effected.  His  beautiful  soul  at  the  moment  of  its 
infusion  into  the  body  might  have  been  guarded  from 
contracting  the  stain  of  original  sin;  or  at  the  second 
moment,  that  is,  when  the  stain  was  scarcely  contracted, 
it  might  have  been  instantaneously  cancelled  and  purged 
by  the  grace  of  the  future  Saviour. 

With  regard  to  the  first  of  these  opinions,  there  have 
not  been  wanting  pious  writers  who  have  held  that 
Joseph  was  entirely  exempt  from  original  sin.  The 
seraphic  Bernardine  de  Bustis,  a  most  devout  doctor, 
who  nourished  about  the  middle  of  the  15th  century, 
and  therefore  previous  to  the  Council  of  Trent,  says  that 
among  the  fervent  clients  of  St.  Joseph  some  did  not 
hesitate  to  affirm  that  solely  for  the  sake  of  Jesus,  of 
whom  he  was  to  be  the  putative  father,  and  of  Mary, 
of  whom  he  was  to  be  the  most  pure  spouse,  he  was  not 
only  sanctified  in  his  mother's  womb  but,  moreover, 
preserved  from  contracting  original  sin.2  The  said  doctor 
neither  approves  nor  condemns  this  opinion,  adding  that 
it  was  known  only  to  God,  who  from  all  men  chose 
Joseph  for  His  reputed  father  and  for  the  spouse  of  His 
most  holy  Mother.  A  century  later,  Giacomo  Lobbezio, 

1  Psalm  xx.  4.          2  Mariale,  p.  iv.  Serin,  xii.  de  Despons.  Virg. 

44  ST.    JOSEPH. 

of  the  Company  of  Jesus,  also  relates  how  some  from 
their  devotion  to  St.  Joseph  would  maintain  that  the 
privilege  conceded  to  his  Blessed  Spouse  was  also  ac- 
corded to  himself.  This  accomplished  theologian  adds 
that  he,  too,  would  willingly  subscribe  to  such  a  belief  in 
honour  of  this  most  holy  Patriarch,  but  that  he  could  not 
venture  to  do  so  unless  he  had  the  authority  and  witness 
of  the  holy  Fathers  and  an  intimation  from  the  Church 
and  its  Sovereign  Pontiffs,  which  as  yet  we  have  not 
had.1  In  the  meantime  the  immediate  rule  of  our  faith 
is  the  Church,  the  infallible  mistress  of  truth  ;  and, 
however  desirous  we  may  be  to  see  all  the  singular 
merits  and  privileges  of  our  saint  exalted,  we  must  not 
extend  the  range  of  even  pious  opinion  beyond  what 
tradition  or  reason  warrants. 

Coming  now  to  the  other  way  in  which  Joseph's 
sanctification  in  his  mother's  womb  may  have  been 
effected,  namely,  at  the  second  moment  after  his  con- 
ception, as  theologians  would  say — the  Blessed  Virgin 
having  been  sanctified  at  the  first — it  seems  reasonable 
to  believe  it ;  because  it  was  not  becoming  that  the 
putative  father  of  Him  who  came  to  take  away  the  sins 
of  the  world  should  remain  for  any  considerable  space  of 
time  with  the  stain  of  sin  upon  him  ;  it  was  not  becoming 
that  he  who  was  to  bear  in  his  arms,  to  tend,  and  feed 
Him  who  came  to  vanquish  Hell,  should  have  himself 
remained  long  under  the  yoke  and  slavery  of  Satan.  It 
seems  only  reasonable  to  believe  that  the  Divine  Saviour 
prevented  him  with  His  grace.  The  mind  of  the  Doctors 
of  the  Church  has  been  so  freely  expressed  on  this  point 
that  it  may  be  reckoned  as  a  common  opinion.  Gerson, 
who  was  most  devout  to  St.  Joseph,  and  who  exerted 
himself  so  vigorously  for  the  extinction  of  the  schism 
which  afflicted  the  Church  during  his  time,  used  loudly 
to  assert  that  in  order  to  remove  this  tribulation  it  was 
1  Qiuest.  Theolog.  torn.  iii. 


above  all  things  necessary  to  honour  and  glorify  in  the 
highest  possible  degree  the  great  Patriarch,  St.  Joseph. 
In  the  beautiful  discourse  which  he  delivered  before  the 
Council  of   Constance  on   the  Nativity  of  the  Blessed 
Virgin,1  he   made   the   most   splendid   eulogium   of  her 
holy  spouse,  Joseph.     In  this  sermon  he  openly  professed 
that   the   Blessed   Virgin   was    by   a   singular  privilege 
prevented  by  divine  grace  in  such  wise  as  to  preserve  her 
from  the  least  stain  of  original  sin,   so  that  she  thus 
crushed  the  head  of  the  old  serpent,  without  having  ever 
been   trodden  under  foot   by  him.      Then,  referring  to 
Joseph,  he  uses  these  words  :  "  As  Mary  before  her  birth 
was  sanctified  in  her  mother's  womb,  so  may  we  believe 
was  also  her  virginal  spouse,  Joseph  "  ;  from  which  ob- 
servation it  might  have  been  concluded  that  he  claimed 
the  same  immunity  from  original  sin  for  St.  Joseph  as  for 
the  Blessed  Virgin,  except  for  the  qualification  which  he 
subjoined  :  "  although  not  in  an  altogether  similar  man- 
ner— quamvie  non  omnino  similiter  ".     The  similarity  and 
the  difference  may  be  noted  in  this — that  Joseph  after 
the  contraction  of  original  sin  was  sanctified  in  the  womb 
by  the  baptism  of  charity,  baptismo  flaminis,  as  was  the 
Baptist  and  as  others  have  been  ;  for  so  we  read  in  the 
Jerusalem  Office  of  St.  Joseph.     From  these  expressions 
we  may  gather  that  the  learned  preacher  was  persuaded 
that,  if  Joseph  was  not,  like  the  Blessed  Virgin,  entirely 
preserved  from  the  original  stain,  he  must  nevertheless 
have  been  speedily  withdrawn  from  the  hard  slavery  of 
Satan,  so  that  his  beautiful  soul,  enriched  with  every 
gift,    shone    resplendently  before    God    from    the    first 
moments  of  his   life.     This   doctrine  was  preached  by 
Gerson  at  the  Council  of  Constance,  in  presence  of  the 
very  Fathers  who  had  deputed  him  to  place  on  record  the 
conciliar  decrees ;  and  not  only  had  these  Fathers  not 
a  word  to  say  in  opposition,  but  they  greatly  applauded 
1  Serm.  de  Nativ.  B.  V.  Marice,  Consid,  ii. 

46  ST.    JOSEPH. 

his  discourse  and  ordered  it  to  be  published,  accompanied 
by  a  notice  that  it  had  been  delivered  before  them.  This 
commendation  served  to  promote  the  support  of  the 
doctrine  by  the  most  learned  theologians. 

In  1522  Isidore  Isolano,  a  Milanese  Dominican  Father, 
who  had  a  very  great  devotion  to  the  Saint,  published  his 
Summary  of  the  Gifts  of  St.  Joseph,  dedicating  it  to  the 
Sovereign  Pontiff,  Adrian  VI.  In  the  9th  chapter  of 
this  work  he  demonstrates  that  the  opinion  that  St. 
Joseph  was  sanctified  in  his  mother's  womb  may  be  held 
and  piously  believed.1  Every  sanctification  of  this  nature, 
he  says,  either  is  accorded  on  account  of  the  future 
exalted  dignity  of  the  sanctified,  or  is  ordained  with  a 
special  reference  to  the  Saint  of  Saints.  Now,  both 
causes  eminently  existed  in  St.  Joseph,  who  was  to  be 
perfeptly  just,  and  was  ordained,  above  all  men,  to  be 
nearest  to  the  Saint  of  Saints,  Jesus.  If  Jeremias  was 
sanctified  before  his  birth  because  he  was  to  prophesy 
expressly  of  Jesus,  and  the  Baptist  also  because  he  was 
to  point  Him  out  present  among  men,  who  can  suppose 
that  Joseph,  on  account  of  the  close  knowledge  he  had 
of  Jesus  above  all  others,  Mary  alone  excepted,  and 
his  paternal  education  of  Him,  was  not  also  similarly 

1  In  this  work  of  the  Milanese  Dominican  we  find  (p.  iii.  cap.  iii. ) 
the  following  passage,  which  is  very  striking,  partaking  as  it  does  of 
the  nature  of  a  prophecy,  or,  at  least,  furnishing  an  instance  of 
prescience  bearing  a  close  resemblance  to  prophecy.  "  The  myste- 
rious action  of  the  Holy  Spirit  will  not  cease  to  move  and  inflame 
the  hearts  of  the  faithful,  until  the  whole  army  of  the  Church 
militant  shall  pay  fresh  homage  to  Joseph,  raising  monasteries, 
temples,  and  altars  dedicated  to  his  name.  Yes,  new  and  magnifi- 
cent feasts  will  be  celebrated  in  his  honour,  vows  will  be  offered 
under  his  invocation,  and  those  whose  petitions  have  been  granted 
will  gladly  fulfil  them  at  his  altar.  God  will  give  deeper  penetra- 
tion to  human  intellects ;  and  learned  men,  meditating  on  the 
interior  and  hidden  gifts  in  Joseph,  will  be  fain  to  acknowledge  that 
no  one  ever  possessed  similar  superheavenly  riches.  Others  are 
called  the  friends  of  Christ,  but  Joseph  is  called  His  father.  The 
saints  invoke  Mary  by  the  title  of  Queen,  and  this  Queen  is  the 
spouse  of  St.  Joseph." 


privileged  ?  If  God  was  pleased  thus  to  sanctify  His 
servants,  how  much  more  His  putative  father,  in  order 
that  he  might  be  so  reputed,  and  be  worthy  of  the  name  ! 
Isolano  adds  that,  if  all  the  world  believes  that  the  Mother 
of  Jesus  was  raised  to  the  highest  degree  of  sanctity  in 
the  womb  on  account  of  the  dignity  of  her  Divine  Son 
(and  it  is  now  an  article  of  faith  that  she  was  preserved 
from  the  stain  of  original  sin  from  the  very  first  moment 
of  her  conception),  why  may  we  not  believe  that  Joseph 
was  likewise  raised  to  a  certain  degree*of  sanctity  in  his 
mother's  womb,  since  he  was  chosen  by  God  to  be  called 
His  father  ?  This,  he  adds,  was  also  befitting  the  parity 
of  the  marriage  between  the  Blessed  Virgin  and  St. 

Cornelius  &  Lapide  treats  of  the  same  question,  and 
after  having  noticed  that  several  of  the  Fathers  were  of 
opinion  that  this  privilege  was  accorded,  not  only  to  our 
saint,  but  to  others  whom  he  names,  he  comes  to  this 
conclusion — that  God  might  concede  this  privilege  to 
more  than  one,  if  He  were  so  pleased,  but,  if  to  any  of 
those  specified  He  did  in  fact  grant  it,  then,  assuredly, 
it  would  seem  that  He  would  not  have  denied  it  to  St. 
Joseph,  the  spouse  of  His  Blessed  Mother.1 

St.  Joseph,  then,  we  see,  is  always,  in  the  opinion  of 
the  Doctors  of  the  Church,  held  to  be,  next  to  the 
Blessed  Virgin,  the  purest  and  the  most  holy  among 
creatures,  and  worthy,  for  the  sake  of  the  Divine  Son 
and  His  Mother,  to  be  liberated  and  purged  from  original 
sin  immediately  after  his  conception.  And  this  doctrine, 
professed  by  great  doctors,  and  tacitly  approved  by  the 
Church — a  doctrine  become  familiar  to  preachers  in  their 
pulpits,  to  theologians  in  their  academies,  and  to  sacred 
writers  in  their  works — may  be  considered  as  generally 
held  and  believed  by  devout  Christians. 

1  Comment,  in  Matthceum,  i.  16. 




ONE  of  the  penalties  of  original  sin  is  that  rebellion  of 
the  flesh  against  the  spirit  which,  according  to  the 
Council  of  Trent,  proceeds  from  sin  and  inclines  to  sin.1 
Hence  the  Apostle  said:  "I  see  another' law  in  my  mem- 
bers fighting  against  the  law  of  my  mind,  and  captivating 
me  in  the  law  of  sin  that  is  in  my  members  ".2 

If  it  was  fitting  that  Joseph  should  be  speedily  cleansed 
from  the  original  stain,  it  was  also  fitting  that  he  should 
by  a  special  privilege  be  freed  from  this  rebellion  of  the 
flesh  which  is  its  consequence.  All  in  him  was  to  be 
pure  and  holy ;  that  conflict  between  the  flesh  and  the 
spirit,  that  propensity  to  evil  and  difficulty  respecting 
good  could  find  no  place  in  him,  but  there;  must  be  per- 
fect subjection  of  the  inferior  powers  to  reason,  perfect 
tranquillity  and  order  in  all  his  affections  and  in  all  the 
movements  of  his  heart ;  which  is  equivalent  to  saying 
that  the  incentive  to  sin — -fames,  as  it  is  called  by  theo- 
logians8— was  to  be,  as  it  were,  extinguished  in  Joseph 
or,  at  any  rate,  vanquished  and  bound  in  such  wise  that 
it  could  not  revolt  against  reason.  Since  Joseph  was  to 
be  a  pure  virgin,  in  order  to  make  him  the  worthy  com- 
panion of  the  purest  among  all  virgins,  so  also  was  it 

1  Sessio  v.  Decretum  de  Peccato  Originali.         2  Rom.  vii.  23. 
3  St.  Thomas,  Summa,  p.  iii.  q.  xxvii.  a.  3. 


needful  that  he  should  be  exempt  from  any  movement  of 
concupiscence  which  might  cast  a  shadow  on  the  white 
lily  of  his  purity.  God,  certainly,  did  not  fail  to  prevent 
and  protect  with  this  singular  grace  the  heart  of  Joseph, 
so  that  the  very  slightest  thought  which  was  not  per- 
fectly chaste  should  never  arise  to  trouble  the  serenity  of 
his  stainless  soul. 

Gerson,  after  having  asserted  Joseph's  liberation  from 
original  sin,  goes  on  to  claim  this  privilege  for  him  also. 
If,  he  says,  the  Lord  would  not  confide  His  Mother,  then 
a  matron  in  age,  to  any  but  His  virgin  disciple,  the 
Evangelist  St.  John,  how  much  more  when  that  Mother 
was  in  her  tender  youth !  In  like  manner,  since  Jesus 
would  not  be  born  save  of  perfect  virginal  purity,  that  is, 
of  Mary,  so  also  He  would  not  be  nurtured  save  by  one 
whose  purity  was  spotless,  that  is,  by  Joseph.1 

Echius,  that  eminent  and  learned  doctor,  follows  and 
confirms  this  statement  of  Gerson  in  two  Sermons  which 
he  composed  in  praise  of  St.  Joseph,  and  which  he  dedi- 
cated to  Pope  Clement  VII.  "  Christ,"  he  says,  "when 
hanging  on  the  Cross  and  about  to  die,  commended  His 
Mother  to  the  Apostle  John.  Doctors,  enquiring  why 
He  did  not  rather  commend  her  to  St.  Peter,  or  to  some 
other  of  His  disciples,  give  this  reason:  that  He,  a 
Virgin,  commended  His  Virgin  Mother  to  a  virgin.  It  is 
also,"  he  says,  "  to  be  considered,  not  only  that  Joseph 
was  a  virgin,  but  that  God  by  a  special  grace  had  extin- 
guished in  him  all  the  carnal  fire  of  concupiscence,  so 
that,  free  from  all  temptation,  he  could  dwell  with  the 
most  holy  and  most  beautiful  Virgin  Mary."  Whence  it 
is  just  to  infer  that  he  was  sanctified  in  his  mother's 
womb,  and  that  the  rebellion  of  concupiscence  was  either 
extinguished  or  repressed  in  him.  Nor  should  this  sur- 
prise us,  since,  next  to  Mary,  he  was  destined  by  God  for 
the  sublimest  ministry,  a  ministry  superior  to  that  of  all 
1  Serm.  de  Nativ.  B.  V.  Marice. 

50  ST.    JOSEPH. 

the  angels  and  saints ;  and  the  holy  Doctors  are  unani-  ^  2 
mous  in  concluding  that  there  was  no  grace,  gift,  or 
privilege  conferred  on  angel  or  saint  which  was  not  conr 
ceded  in  a  much  higher  degree  to  Joseph ;  otherwise  he 
would,  doubtless,  appear  to  be  in  some  respect  inferior  to 
one  or  other  among  them. 

Giovanni  di  Cartagena,  who  for  his  doctrine  and  piety 
was  so  dear  to  Paul  V.,  devoted  thirteen  of  his  beautiful 
Homilies  on  the  mysteries  of  Christ  and  of  Mary  to  the 
praises  of  our  saint.  Having  set  himself  to  prove  that, 
with  the  exception  of  the  Blessed  Mother  of  God,  Joseph 
was  superior  to  all  the  saints,  he  proceeds  to  demonstrate 
the  same  with  respect  to  the  angels. .  "  The  office  of  the 
angels,"  he  says,  "is  the  guardianship  of  men;  but  to 
Joseph  was  committed  a  far  higher  and  more  excellent 
office,  since  he  was  chosen  to  be  the  guardian,  not  of  a 
simple  man,  but  of  Christ  the  Lord,  God  and  Man,  and 
to  be  the  most  faithful  spouse  of  His  Mother."  1  St. 
Francis  de  Sales,  the  new  doctor  of  the  Church,  enlarg- 
ing on  the  praises  of  St.  Joseph  in  his  Spiritual  Con- 
ferences, exclaims,  "  Oh,  what  a  saint  is  the  glorious  St. 
Joseph !  Not  only  is  he  a  patriarch,  but  he  is  the  cory- 
pheus  of  all  the  patriarchs ;  not  only  is  he  a  confessor, 
but  he  is  more  than  a  confessor,  because  in  his  confession 
is  contained  the  dignity  of  bishop,  the  generosity  of 
martyrs  and  of  all  other  saints  ;"  and,  later  on,  he  says 
that  the  Patriarch  St.  Joseph  surpassed  all  the  saints  and 
angels,  and  the  very  cherubim  themselves,  in  the  eminent 
virtue  of  virginity.2  The  great  doctor,  Alfonso  Maria  de' 
Liguori,  pondering  those  words  of  the  holy  Evangelist : 
"  And  He  was  subject  to  them,"3  says  :  "  This  humility 
of  Jesus  in  obeying  causes  us  to  know  that  the  dignity  of 
St.  Joseph  is  superior  to  that  of  all  the  saints,  saving  only 
that  of  the  Virgin  Mother".4 

1  Lib.  iv.  Horn.  ix.  2  Entreticn,  xix. 

3  St.  Luke  ii.  51.  4  Esort.  alia  Divoz.  di  S.  Giuseppe. 


*,,.    If,  then,  it  be  now  the  common  opinion  of  doctors  that 
Joseph  in  his  dignity,  in  his  ministry,  and  in  holiness 
surpassed  all  the  angels  and  saints,  we  are  led  to  the 
legitimate  conclusion  that  from  his  conception  he  was 
immediately  enriched  with   gifts  superior  to  theirs,  in 
order  that  he  might  be  a  fitting  spouse  for  Mary,  and 
worthy  to  be  the  reputed  father  of  Jesus.     Therefore,  if 
of  the  angels  St.  Augustine  writes,  that  "  God,  in  creating 
the  angelic  nature,  infused  grace  into  it,"1  so  likewise  it 
must  be  true  to  say  the  same  of  St.  Joseph ;  otherwise 
the  angels  would   be   his   superiors,   not  only  in   their 
nature,  but  in  the  priority  and  abundance  of  their  grace. 
And  what  it  is  true  to  say  of  St.  Joseph,  as  compared  to 
the  angels,  with  still  more  reason  may  be  affirmed  in  re- 
spect  to   all   the   saints.     If   St.  Joseph  had  not  been 
sanctified   more   speedily  and  with  a  fuller  amount  of 
grace,  in  what  respect  would  he  have  been  more  highly 
favoured  than  Jeremias  or  John  the  Baptist,2  both  of 
whom  were  sanctified  previous  to  their  birth:    of   the 
Baptist  it  being  declared  that  he  was  "filled  with  the 
Holy  Ghost  even  from  his  mother's  womb  "  ?     If,  there- 
fore, Joseph  was  superior  to  the  other  saints,  he  must, 
not  only  have  enjoyed  like  privileges,  but  have  had  them 
in  a  much  higher  degree.     We  have  reason,  then,  to  con- 
clude that  not  only  was  he  freed  without  delay  from 
original  sin,  but  that  his  beautiful  soul  was  also  delivered 
from  concupiscence,  filled  with  the  Holy  Spirit  and  with 
the  plenitude  of  His  gifts ;  nay,  that  he  was  even  con- 
firmed in  grace,  and  endued  with  the  use  of  reason  while 
yet  in  his  mother's  womb,  as  we  believe  was  the  case 
with  Mary  from  the  first  moment  of  her  conception.3 

P.  Paolo  Segneri,  a  prince  among  sacred  orators  and  a 
profound  theologian,  in  a  splendid  panegyric  which  he 
pronounced  on  St.  Joseph,  after  having  demonstrated  how 

1  De  Civitate  Dei,  c.  is.  2  Jeremias  i.  5  ;  St.  Luke  i.  15. 

3  St.  Bernardine  of  Siena,  torn.  i.  cap.  i.  serm.  li. 

52  ST.    JOSEPH. 

distinguished  doctors  have  agreed  in  affirming  that  this 
privilege  of  sanctification  before  birth  had  been  granted 
to  our  saint,  goes  on  to  say  how  St.  Thomas  teaches  that 
the  nearer  anything  approaches  to  its  principle  the  greater 
and  more  perfect  is  its  participation  in  the  prerogatives 
or  singular  properties  of  that  principle.  Thus  the  bright- 
ness of  the  sun  is  more  resplendent  in  its  vicinity,  and 
heat  in  proximity  of  the  fire  is  more  fervent ;  so  also,  if 
you  draw  water  from  a  spring,  you  will -find  that  it  is 
clearer,  more  limpid,  and  more  pure  in  proportion  to  its 
nearness  to  the  source.  "But,  if  this  be  so,"  he  says, 
"how  can  any  one  suspect  that  Joseph,  who  by  affinity 
and  by  office  was  so  closely  united  to  the  universal  source 
of  all  sanctity,  was  made  participant  thereof  in  a  lower 
degree  and  in  less  perfection  than  those  who  were  much 
further  removed  from  it  ?  For  this  reason,  then,  we  may 
well  conclude,  with  very  solid  grounds  of  probability, 
that  he  was,  not  only  sanctified  in  his  mother's  womb, 
but  also  confirmed  in  grace  and  exempted  from  all  malice, 
so  that  no  man  on  earth — let  us  boldly  affirm  it — was 
ever  holier  than  was  Joseph."  And  further  on  he  says  : 
"  Have  I  erred  in  saying  that  no  one  ever  exceeded 
Joseph  in  sanctity,  always,  of  course,  excepting,  as  she 
ever  must  be  excepted,  his  Spouse  ?  If  such  an  assertion 
is  to  be  esteemed  temerity,  then  call  Gerson,  the  famous 
Parisian  Chancellor,  temerarious,  temerarious  a  Bernar- 
dine  de  Bustis,  a  Giovanni  di  Cartagena,  an  Isidore 
surnamed  Isolano,  and,  finally,  a  Suarez,  whose  judgment 
is  equivalent  to  that  of  an  entire  university.  And  is  it  in 
ambiguous  or  obscure  terms  that  Suarez  expresses  him- 
self ?  Listen  to  his  words :  '  I  do  not  see  how  it  is  a 
temerarious  or  improbable  but,  rather,  a  pious  and  pro- 
bable opinion  should  any  hold  that  St.  Joseph  in  grace 
and  glory  surpassed  all  the  other  saints,  for  there  is 
nothing  in  Holy  Scripture  repugnant  to  such  a  belief'."1 
1  Suarez,  torn.  ii.  disp.  viii.  sec.  i. 


If  the  venerable  P.  Segneri  could  thus  speak  in  praise  of 
St.  Joseph  two  hundred  years  ago,  and  that  eminent 
doctor  and  great  theologian,  Suarez,  a  hundred  years 
before  him,  what  would  they  not  have  said,  what  would 
they  not  have  written,  in  this  our  time,  when  the  glories 
of  Joseph  are  more  and  more  manifesting  themselves  in 
the  whole  world,  and  when  from  the  sublime  throne  of 
the  Vatican  he  has  been  declared  the  Patron  of  the  Uni- 
versal Church ! 

But  Suarez  goes  further  still.  After  having  enume- 
rated the  various  ministries  in  the  order  of  grace,  and 
said  that  the'  Apostolic  ministry  occupies  the  first  rank, 
he  adds,  "  There  are  other  ministries  which  belong  to 
the  order  of  the  Hypostatic  Union,  which  in  its  kind  is 
more  perfect,  as  is  apparent  from  the  divine  maternity  of 
Mary ;  and  in  this  order  is  the  ministry  of  St.  Joseph, 
which,  therefore,  surpasses  the  former,  that  of  the 
Apostles  ".-1  If,  then,  according  to  Suarez,  the  ministry 
of  St.  Joseph  belongs  to  the  order  of  the  Hypostatic 
Union,  and  this  order  is  superior  to  the  Apostolic,  which 
is  the  first  of  all  the  rest,  clearly  Joseph,  although  he 
holds  the  third  rank  in  the  order  of  the  Hypostatic 
Union,  is  superior  even  to  Peter,  who  is  first  in  the 
Apostolic  hierarchy.  Between  the  ministry  of  the 
Apostles  and  that  of  Joseph  there  exists  this  difference  : 
the  former  is  immediately  for  men,  to  conduct  them  to 
Christ ;  that  of  Joseph  is  immediately  directed  to  Christ 
Himself,  in  order  to  preserve  Him  for  men,  and  is  there- 
fore so  much  the  more  noble  and  sublime.  "  The  ministry 
of  Joseph,"  says  Giovanni  di  Cartagena,  "  both  as  spouse 
of  the  Blessed  Virgin  and  as  adopted  father  of  Jesus,  was 
closely  conjoined  with  the  very  Person  of  Jesus  Christ,  in 
such  wise  that  its  dignity  appears,  more  than  any  other 
whatsoever,  to  approach  the  most  sublime  dignity  of  the 
Mother  of  God. " 2  Benedict  XIV.  himself  thus  concludes : 
1  P.  iii.  q.  xxix.  sec.  i  2  Lib.  iv.  Horn.  viii. 

54:  ST.    JOSEPH. 

"  These  graces,  these  spiritual  prerogatives,  of  Joseph 
are  great,  are  eminent,  are  most  certain,  and  are  so  ex- 
clusively his  that  they  have  not  been  given  to  any  other 

Upon  the  authority,  then,  of  such  celebrated  doctors, 
we  may  safely  hold  that  Joseph,  being,  next  to  Mary, 
superior  in  dignity  and  holiness  to  all  the  other  saints, 
must  therefore  have  received  from  God  privileges  propor- 
tionately greater,  and  was  consequently  speedily  cleansed 
from  original  sin,  filled  with  the  gifts  of  the  Holy  Spirit,  and 
even  confirmed  in  grace,  with  concupiscence  subdued,  if 
not  extinguished,  from  the  -first  moments  of  his  existence, 
that  thus  he  might  be  worthy  of  being  associated  with 
Jesus  and  Mary,  and  form  with  them  that  august  Triad 
upon  earth  which  is  the  joy  of  the  whole  universe. 

Some,  however,  would  allege  as  an  objection  the 
declaration  of  Christ,  who  said,  "  There  hath  not  arisen 
among  them  that  are  born  of  women  a  greater  than  John 
the  Baptist";2  whence  they  infer  that  Joseph  might, 
indeed,  be  equal  to  the  Baptist,  but  could  not  surpass 
him.  Nevertheless,  we  have  the  secure  authority  of 
Benedict  XIV.  for  considering  that  this  praise  of  John 
detracts  nothing  from  the  pre-eminent  glories  of  Joseph, 
since  Jesus,  in  asserting  that  none  had  arisen  greater 
than  John  the  Baptist,  was  not  speaking  absolutely,  but 
comparatively.  He  was  speaking  of  him  as  compared  to 
the  saints  and  prophets  of  the  Old  Testament,  and,  more- 
over, was  excluding  from  His  general  assertion  those  who 
ought  to  be  excluded,  and  excepting  those  who  ought  to 
be  excepted,  as  is  the  case  in  all  general  assertions* 
Thus  from  this  declaration  Jesus  naturally  excluded 
Himself  and  excluded  Mary ;  and  so  also  He  excluded 
Joseph,  as  belonging  to  an  order  much  superior  to  that 

1  De  Servorum  Dei  Beatificatione  et  Beatorum  Canonisatione,  lib. 
iv.  p.  ii.  c.  xx.  n.  38. 

2  St.  Matthew  xi.  11. 


of  the  Baptist.  Hence  Maldonatus,  a  very  learned 
commentator,  speaking  of  this  declaration  of  Christ, 
wrote,  "  I  answer  briefly  and  easily  that  here  the  Baptist, 
as  St.  Jerome  affirms,  is  compared  by  Jesus,  not  to  all  the 
saints,  but  only  to  those  of  the  Old  Testament".1  Now, 
Joseph  certainly  belongs  to  the  New  Testament,  and  is 
the  first  after  Mary.  Therefore  he  is  excluded.  More- 
over, St.  Jerome,  commenting  on  the  words  of  Christ, 
observes  that  Jesus  did  not  in  this  declaration  prefer 
John  to  all  the  prophets  and  patriarchs,  but  only  made 
him  equal  to  them. 

Others,  indeed,  and  with  much  reason,  maintain  that 
John  is  not  here  compared  by  Jesus  with  all  the  saints, 
but  only  with  the  prophets,  he  being,  in  fact,  the  Pre- 
cursor Prophet ;  and  that  it  is  clearly  in  this  sense  that 
He  must  be  understood  would  appear  from  the  context 
in  St.  Matthew's  Gospel,  where,  speaking  of  John  to  the 
multitude,  Jesus  asked,  "What  went  you  out  into  the 
desert  to  see  ?  A  prophet  ?  Yea,  I  tell  you,  and  more 
than  a  prophet ; "  adding  afterwards,  "  And  if  you  will 
receive  it,  he  is  Elias  that  is  to  come".2  The  meaning, 
therefore,  of  what  Jesus  proceeded  to  say  was  that  among 
those  who  were  born  of  women  there  had  not  risen 
a  greater  prophet  than  John  the  Baptist;  and  he  was 
greater  in  this  respect,  that  the  other  prophets  beheld  the 
Messias  in  spirit  and  announced  Him  long  before,  but 
John  saw  Him  and  announced  Him  as  present.  The 
words  of  our  Lord,  as  given  in  St.  Luke's.  Gospel,  confirm 
this  view :  "  Amongst  those  that  are  born  of  women 
there  is  not  a  greater  prophet  than  John  the  Baptist  ".s 
Zachary  had  foretold  that  his  child  should  be  called  "  the 
prophet  of  the  Highest"  ;4  and  Holy  Church  herself  styles 
him  the  greatest  of  the  prophets,  and  in  her  hymns  de- 

1  In  Matthceum,  cap.  xi.  2  St.  Matthew  xi.  14. 

3  St.  Luke  vii.  20.  4  Chap.  i.  76. 

56  ST.    JOSEPH. 

clares  the  reason,  namely,  that  the  prophets  who  preceded 
him  prophesied  of  Jesus  from  afar,  but  John  pointed  him 
out  with  his  finger  as  present,  and  as  the  Lamb  of  God 
come  to  take  away  the  sins  of  the  world.1  Besides,  in 
the  very  declaration  which  Jesus  made  He  expresses  a 
limitation  of  John's  superiority,  adding,  "  Yet  he  that  is 
the  lesser  in  the  Kingdom  of  Heaven  is  greater  than  he" ; 
by  which  we  may  understand  he  that  is  most  profoundly 
humble ;  Jesus  in  these  words  alluding  in  a  special  sense 
to  Himself,  next  to  Mary,  and  then  to  St.  Joseph,  who 
for  the  greatness  of  his  humility  was,  with  the  exception 
of  the  Blessed  Virgin,  unsurpassed  by  any  saint.  So,  too, 
when  His  disciples  asked  our  Lord  who  was  the  greater 
in  the  Kingdom  of  Heaven  He  called  unto  Him  a  little 
child  and,  setting  him  in  the  midst  of  them,  He  said, 
"  Whosoever  shall  humble  himself  as  this  little  child,  he 
is  the  greater  in  the  Kingdom  of  Heaven  ".2  Therefore, 
since  Joseph  next  to  Mary  excels  in  humility,  it  follows 
that  he  is  greater  than  all  the  other  saints,  including  the 
Baptist.  Thus  the  superiority  of  St.  Joseph  is  confirmed 
also  by  these  words  of  Christ.8 

Nothing  in  what  has  been  said  can  be  viewed  as  any 
derogation  of  the  high  titles  and  sublime  sanctity  of  John 

1  St.  John  i.  29,  36.  2  st  Matthew  xviii.  1-4. 

3  We  have  given  Vitali's  comment  in  his  own  words;  but  it  may 
be  well  to  cite  a  contrary  opinion..  F.  Coleridge  writes :  "  This  mode 
of  explanation  does  not  fully  meet  the  difficulty  ;  for  our  Lord  says, 
not  the  lesser  simply,  but  the  lesser  in  the  Kingdom  of  Heaven. 
The  words  which  presently  follow  upon  these  serve  to  confirm  the 
supposition  that  our  Lord  is  here  drawing  a  contrast  between  the 
greatest  of  the  Prophets  of  the  Old  Law  and  the  lowest  offices  of 
the  New  Kingdom ;  and  that  this  is  the  true  explanation  of  these 
words  about  St.  John.  Great,  indeed,  he  was,  as  compared  to  the 
very  greatest  of  the  old  Prophets,  and  yet  he  belonged,  with  them, 
to_the  Old,  and  therefore  greatly  inferior,  Dispensation,  and  thus 
it  is  that  his  greatness  is  almost  as  nothing  in  comparison  to  the 
powers  and  dignities  of  the  ministers  of  that  New  Dispensation  to 
which,  indeed,  he  opened  the  door,  but  to  which  he  nevertheless  did 
not  by  his  office  belong." — Tlic,  Training  of  the  Apostles,  part  ii.  p. 


the  Baptist,  who  attained  even  to  meriting  the  praises  of 
a  God ;  the  sole  object  being  to  remove  all  doubt  of  the 
pre-eminence  of  Joseph,  and  to  prove  that  in  his  great- 
ness and  glory  he  must  be  reckoned,  after  Jesus  and 
Mary,  as  excelling  all  the  saints  and  angels. 




AS  after  a  long  and  deep  night  we  first  discern  the 
white  light  of  dawn,  to  which  the  rosy  aurora 
succeeds,  ushering  in  the  resplendent  sun,  even  so,  after 
the  long  and  dismal  night  of  error  and  corruption  in  the 
Gentile  world,  Joseph  appeared,  like  the  early  dawn,  and 
after  Joseph  came  Mary,  who  is  the  celestial  aurora,  of 
whom  was  born  Jesus,  the  true  and  eternal  Sun  of  Justice. 
Thus,  as  the  dawn  precedes  the  aurora,  and  the  aurora 
the  sun,  so  Joseph  preceded  Mary,  and  Mary  Jesus. 

And  truly  Jesus,  the  eternal  refulgent  Sun  of  Justice, 
came  to  illuminate  the  world,  immersed  in  the  thick 
darkness  of  false  belief  and  sin,  with  the  light  of  His 
doctrines,  His  examples,  and  His  miracles.  "  That  was 
the  true  light,"  says  the  Evangelist,  "  which  enlighteneth 
every  man  that  cometh  into  this  world."1  But  before  He 
arose,  appeared  the  glowing  and  pure  aurora,  whose 
roseate  light  rejoiced  heaven  and  .earth,  that  .is,  Mary, 
who  in  Scripture  is  compared  thereto:  "quasi  aurora 
surgens — as  the  morning  rising"2- — and  this  beautiful 
aurora  was  to  be  preceded  by  the  white  light  of  dawn, 
giving  presage  to  men  that  the  joyful  day  was  at  hand  ; 
and  this  was  Joseph.  Wherefore  it  was  with  reason  said 
that  this  blessed  Triad  on  earth  marks  the  confines 
between  the  ancient  law  and  the  beginning  of  the  new, 
even  as  the  dawn,  the  aurora,  and  the  sunrise  mark  the 

1  St.  John  i.  9.  2  Canticles  vi.  9. 


passage  from  night  to  day.  Of  the  Blessed  Virgin  St. 
Thomas  Aquinas  says  that  she  formed  the  transition 
from  the  Old  to  the  New  Law,  as  the  aurora  forms  the 
confine  between  night  and  day ;  and  of  St.  Joseph 
Isolano  writes  that  he  stood  midway  between  the  Syna- 
gogue and  the  Church,  announcing  the  close  of  the  one 
and  the  commencement  of  the  other.1  Whence  we  may 
argue  that  Joseph  in  point  of  time  was  the  first  sign  of 
light,  the  first  ray  which  shone  upon  the  earth  to  give 
notice  that  the  aurora  was  about  to  arise,  from  which 
was  to  emanate  that  longed-for  Sun  which  was  to  dispel 
all  darkness  and  bring  in  eternal  day.  Thus  Joseph  was 
the  herald  of  Mary  and  Jesus  ;  and  he  may  be  regarded 
as  standing  between  the  Old  and  the  New  Covenant. 
But  to  which  does  he  belong?  Does  he  belong  to  the 
Synagogue  or  does  he  belong  to  the  Church  ? 

The  question  is  not  a  new  one,  but  it  may  be  con- 
sidered as  now  resolved.  Some  doctors  were  of  opinion 
that  Joseph  belonged  to  the  Old  Law,  simply  because 
when  he  departed  this  life  there  as  yet  existed  neither 
Church,  nor  priests,  nor  sacraments,  but  this  is  not 
altogether  true ;  for,  if  the  Church  did  not  exist  in  its 
completed  form,  it  existed  in  its  commencement.  The 
Catholic  Church,  according  to  St.  Athanasius  and  other 
Fathers,  began  to  have  a  visible  existence  even  in  the 
cave  of  Bethlehem  ;  and  Bethlehem,  the  House  of  Bread, 
received  Jesus,  Mary,  Joseph,  and  then  the  shepherds 
and  the  Magi,  who  were  the  first-fruits  of  the  true 
believers.  Jesus  was  the  Author,  the  Head  of  the 
Church,  its  corner-stone  and  its  foundation-stone  ;  Jesus 
was  the  High  Priest  by  excellence  ;  Jesus  was  the  Giver 
and  the  Fountain  of  that  grace  which  He  afterwards 
lodged  in  the  sacraments.  Mary  was  the  first  in  this 
Church,  nay,  its  Queen ;  after  Mary,  Joseph  was  the 

1  St.  Thomas,  Sent,  iv.  List.  xxx.  q.  ii.  a.  1 ;  Isolano,  Summa  de 
Donis  S.  Joseph,  p.  iii.  c.  xvi. 

60  ST.    JOSEPH. 

first  and  the  most  fervent  of  all  the  faithful,  its  first 
persecuted  just  one.  It  is,  therefore,  generally  held  by 
doctors  that  St.  Joseph  undoubtedly  belongs  more  to  the 
Catholic  Church  than  to  the  Synagogue ;  and  Benedict 
XIV.  himself  favours  this  opinion,  where,  in  answer  to 
the  doubt  proposed,  he  says  that  where  it  is  question  of 
origin, -birth,  and  education  in  youth,  Joseph  belongs  to  the 
Old  Testament,  but  where  it  is  question  of  faith,  spirit, 
profession,  works,  ministry,  and  co-operation  in  laying 
the  first  foundation  of  the  Church  itself,  he  belongs,  with- 
out doubt,  to  the  New  Law.1  For  who,  indeed,  next  to 
Mary,  had  more  faith  in  the  Divine  Eedeemer  and  more 
love  for  Him  ?  Who  had  more  knowledge  of  His  spirit, 
and  who  was  more  imbued  with  it  from  his  close  and 
continual  association  with  Him  and  with  His  Blessed 
Mother  for  thirty  years?  Who  better  observed  His 
precepts  and  counsels?  Who  better  discharged  the 
ministry  confided  to  him?  Who,  next  to  Mary,  was 
enabled  so  immediately  and  so  faithfully  to  co-operate  in 
the  mystery  of  the  Incarnation,  and  thus,  indirectly,  in  the 
foundation  of  the  Catholic  Church?  Indeed,  we  may 
well  think  that,  since  Joseph  saved  Jesus  from  the  anger 
of  Herod,  in  Jesus  he  saved  the  whole  Church,  and  from 
that  time-  therefore  merited  the  title  and  acquired  the 
right  to  be  the  Patron  of  the  same  Church.  Moreover, 
the  whole  Church  has  always  regarded  and  venerated 
him  as  her  own,  and  now  more  than  ever  in  her  sacred 
rites  and  feasts  she  exalts  him  as  her  incomparable  Pro- 
tector, her  glory,  and  her  defence.2 

Another  reply,  both  shorter  and  more  simple,  is  that 
Joseph  up  to  the  time  of  his  espousals  with  the  Blessed 
Virgin  belonged  to  the  Synagogue,  but  that  after  his 
espousals  and  the  most  sacred  day  of  the  Incarnation  of 
the  Word  he  belonged  incontestably  to  the  Catholic 

1  De  Canonizationc,  lib.  iv.  p.  ii.  c.  xx.  a.  14. 
2  Hymn,  ad  Matut.  in  Festo  S.  Joseph. 


Church  ;  so  much  so  as  to  be  comprised  with  Jesus  and 
Mary  in  the  order  of  the  Hypostatic  Union,  which  is  the 
highest  order  in  the  hierarchy  of  grace.  Thus  the 
seraphic  St.  Bernardine  of  Siena  tells  us  that  Joseph 
had  in  his  hands  the  keys  to  open  the  gates  of  the  New 
Lav/  and  to  close  those  of  the  Law  of  Moses.1 

1  Sermo  de  S.  Joseph. 

(62  ) 


WE  will  now  speak  of  the  family  .from  which  Joseph 
sprang.     The  history  of  his  ancestors  is  that  of 
the  kings  of  Juda.     No  more  ancient,  noble,  or  glorious 
race  could  be  found  in  the  whole  world,  but  this  is  to  say 
little  ;  for  the  genealogy  of  Joseph  is  that  of  the  King  of 
kings  Himself.     St.  Matthew,  as  we.  have  seen,  gives  as 
His  genealogy  that  of  Joseph,  calling  it  "  the  book  of  the 
generation  of  Jesus  Christ,  the  son  of  David,  the  son  of 
Abraham  'V      On   this    doctors    of    the    Church    have 
observed  that  the  Evangelist  enumerates  all  the  ancestors 
of  Joseph,  not  so  much  in  order  to  trace  Mary's  descent 
and,  consequently,  that  of  her  Divine  Son  as  to  make  us 
understand  that  in  Joseph  were  accomplished  all   the 
glories  of  his  forefathers,  all  their  hopes,  all  their  prayers; 
that  in  Joseph  all  their  virtues  were  combined,  but  in  far 
greater  fulness  and  perfection  ;  that  in  Joseph  was  closed 
and  terminated  that  line  of  great  patriarchs  who  were 
the  glory  of  Israel,  but  whom  Joseph  greatly  surpassed 
from  his  incomparable  election  to  be  the  destined  husband 
of. her  of  whom,  by  the  operation  of  Divine  power,  Jesus 
was  born.     Thus,  if  Abraham  was  faithful  and  obedient, 
Joseph  was  still  more  faithful  and  obedient ;  if  Isaac  was 
solicitous  and  pious,  much  more  solicitous  and  pious  was 
Joseph  ;  if  Jacob  was  suffering  and  laborious,  much  more 
suffering  and  laborious  was  Joseph.     Our  saint  was  more 
patient  than  Job,  more  chaste  than  the  first  Joseph,  more 

1  St.  Matthew  i.  1. 


zealous  than  Moses ;  he  was  meeker  than  David,  more 
fervent  than  Elias,  more  trustful  than  Ezechias,  more 
courageous  and  intrepid  than  Mathathias.1 

The  Abbot  Eupert  observes  that  among  the  promises  of 
the  Messias  made  by  God  the  fullest  was  that  made  to 
Joseph.  God  promised  Abraham  that  of  his  race  the 
Eedeemer  should  be  born,  and  that  in  him  all  the 
nations  of  the  earth  should  be  blessed.  To  David  God 
promised  that  the  Divine  Saviour  should  spring  from  his 
family  and  inherit  his  throne  for  ever.  To  Joseph, 
finally,  who  was  of  the  house  and  lineage  of  David  and  a 
descendant  of  Abraham,  God  promised  that  His  Divine 
Son,  who  was  to  be  born  of  his  Virgin  Spouse,  should 
"  save  His  people  from  their  sins  ".2  Thus  in  Joseph 
alone  were  the  promises  of  God  accomplished ;  whence 
the  Abbot  concludes  that  he  was  the  last  in  time  of  the 
order  of  the  Patriarchs,  and  that  in  him  all  the  ancient 
promises  were  summed  up  and  completed.  Abraham, 
David,  and  the  rest  beheld  them  and  saluted  them  from 
afar  ;  Joseph  saw  them  near  to  him,  verified  and  fulfilled. 
The  last  promise  was  made  to  Joseph,  but  it  was  the 
best,  the  most  desired,  the  fullest,  the  most  complete.8 
Thus  Joseph  was  the  happiest,  the  most  highly  privileged, 
the  most  exalted,  and  the  last  of  the  patriarchs  ;  last  in 
time,  but  first  in  dignity. 

In  one  sole  respect  did  the  other  patriarchs  surpass 
him  ;  that  is,  in  abundance  of  the  comforts  of  life,  of 
riches,  of  titles,  of  honours.  The  others  were,  for  the 
most  part,  born  in  the  enjoyment  of  wealth,  or  amidst 

1  P.  Patrignani,  quoted  with  such  high  praise  by  Benedict  XIV., 
says  :  "Joseph  is  the  crown  of  the  Patriarchs  and  progenitors  of  the 

i  promised  Divine  Messias.  He  inherited  all  their  benedictions,  and 
j  beheld  their  fulfilment.  He  was  the  original  figured  by  Joseph,  the 
governor  and  saviour  of  Egypt.  He  was  the  crown  of  the  saints  of 
the  Old  Testament ;  in  him  all  their  virtues  were  combined  and 
perfected ;  and  he  was  the  crown  of  the  saints.of  the  New  Testa- 
ment."— Novena  di  S.  Giuseppe,  Gior.  vi. 

2  St.  Matthew  i.  21.  3  De  Div.  Off.  lib.  iii.  c.  xix. 

64  ST.   JOSEPH. 

the  splendour  of  a  court,  or  even  with  the  regal  sceptre 
in  their  hands  ;  but  not  so  Joseph.  Joseph  was  born 
poor,  though  not  a  mendicant,  in  a  humble  but  not  an 
abject  condition.  A  small  house  and  scanty  goods  con- 
stituted the  whole  of  his  earthly  possessions.  He  had  a 
title  to  the  throne  of  his  ancestors,  but  the  regal  power 
had  fallen  into  the  hands  of  greedy  procurators  and 
foreign  tetrarchs.  He  had,  therefore,  neither  a  royal 
palace,  nor  a  long  train  of  attendants  ;  he  had  neither 
courtiers,  nor  treasure,  nor  domains,  nor  tribute,  nor  the 
homage  of  subject  nations.  Through  the  vicissitudes  of 
the  Babylonian  captivity,  the  violent  deeds  of  Antiochus, 
and  the  avidity  of  domineering  potentates,  the  legitimate 
patrimony  of  his  ancestors  had  been  seized  and  dissipated. 
But,  if  Joseph  was  not  born  great  in  the  eyes  of  the 
world,  he  was  great  before  God  for  the  abundance  of 
graces  with  which  He  had  liberally  endowed  and  enriched 
him  above  all  the  kings  and  patriarchs  his  progenitors. 
Jesus,  who  came  into  the  world  to  condemn  luxury, 
pride,  and  the  insatiate  desire  of  self-exaltation,  was 
preparing  for  Himself  a  father,  albeit  only  putative,  who, 
if,  on  the  one  hand,  he  came  of  royal  blood,  so  that  the 
great  ones  of  the  earth  could  not  be  offended  in  him,  was, 
on  the  other  hand,  humble,  poor,  lowly,  that  He  might 
raise  the  miserable  from  their  abjection,  and  thus  ful- 
fil the  great  end  of  His-  divine  mission.  Of  the  poor 
but  most  holy  Joseph  Jesus  desired  to  form,  as  it  were,  a 
type,  a  perfect  example,  of  every  Christian  virtue,  to  be 
afterwards  proposed  as  a  model  to  all  the  faithful,  that 
they  might  imitate  his  piety,  his  religiousness,  his 
patience,  his  obedience,  his  submission  to  the  Divine 
Will,  his  fraternal  charity,  his  unwearied  activity  in  the 
fulfilment  of  his  duties  and  in  the  exercise  of  every 
private  and  domestic  virtue.  God  was  preparing  in 
Joseph  a  true  friend,  a  protector,  and  a  patron  for  those 
unthinking  men  of  the  people  who  become  so  often  the 


sport  and  the  prey  of  designing  agitators.  Jesus  chose 
Joseph  poor,  as  He  subsequently  chose  His  Apostles  from 
among  the  poor,  that  the  world  might  understand  that 
He  came  to  convert  the  whole  earth,  not  by  gold  or  by 
force,  not  by  the  pomp  of  secular  power,  "but  by  the 
humility  of  the  Gospel,  by  the  poverty  of  the  Cross,  and 
by  the  admirable  virtue  of  His  example,  of  His  word,  and 
of  the  prodigies  which  He  wrought,  in  order  that  the 
divine  mission  and  divine  origin  of  His  Church  might  be 
the  more  manifest. 

Having  seen  how  Joseph  was.  descended  from  Abraham 
and  from  the  kings  of  Juda,  and  how,  in  particular,  he 
was  of  the  house  and  family  of  King  David,  we  will  now 
speak  of  his  own  parents.  We  are,  as  already  observed, 
expressly  told  by  the  Evangelist  St.  Matthew  the  name 
of  his  father,  for  in  closing  his  genealogy  he  says, 
"  Mathan  begat  Jacob,  and  Jacob  begat  Joseph,  the 
husband  of  Mary,  of  whom  was  born  Jesus,  who  is  called 
Christ  "-1  On  this  point,  therefore,  no  doubt  could  arise. 
The  difficulty  suggested  by  the  text  of  St.  Luke  has  been 
already  considered.  Heli,  there  is  the  strongest  reason  to 
believe,  is  the  same  with  Joachim,  the  father  of  Mary, 
and  he  became,  therefore,  the  father-in-law,  or  legal 
father,  of  Joseph,  his  father  by  affinity,  and  whom,  like 
his  Blessed  Spouse,  he  would  call  by  that  name.  We 
owe  much,  therefore,  to  St.  Luke,  who,  without  departing 
from  the  custom  of  the  Hebrews,  has  given  in  fact  the 
direct  genealogy  of  Mary.  And  this  opinion  acquires 
higher  value  if  we  admit — and  we  have  no  reason  not  to 
admit — the  truth  of  what  Menochius,  Benedict  XIII., 
and  other  doctors  assert,  namely,  that  St.  Anne,  the 
mother  of  our  Ble'ssed  Lady  and  the  wife  of  Joachim,  was 
sister  to  Jacob,  the  father  of  Joseph  ;  whence  it  would 
follow  that  Joseph  and  Mary  were  first  cousins,  and  that 
Mary,  as  also  her  Divine  Son,  was  descended  from  King 
1  Chap.  i.  15, 16. 


66  ST.   JOSEPH. 

David  by  the  double  line  of  Solomon  and  Nathan  ;  from 
Nathan  on  the  paternal  side  and  from  Solomon  on  the 
maternal.  • 

While,  however,  we  know  with  certainty  from  Holy 
Scripture  itself  the  names  both  of  the  actual  and  the 
adopted  father  of  Joseph,  it  contains  no  notice  of  his 
mother.  Tradition  ha's  been  equally  silent  on  the 
subject ;  yet  we  naturally  conceive  that  she  must  have 
been  a  woman  of  singular  virtue,  to  be  selected  by  God  to 
be  the  mother  of  a  saint  so  highly  privileged  as  was 
Joseph,  who  was  destined  for  so  exalted  a  dignity  as  the 
reputed  father  of  His  Eternal  Son.  Scripture  and  tradi- 
tion are  equally  silent  as  to  whether  any  supernatural 
signs  preceded  his  birth,  to  foretell,  as  in  the  Baptist's 
.case,  the  high  mission  for  which  he  was  designed,  or,  as 
under  the  Old  Law,  to  announce  the  appearance  of  some 
great  deliverer.  It  has  pleased  God  that,  if  any  such 
were  vouchsafed  to  his  parents,  they  should,  like  so 
much  else  that  concerns  the  humble  Joseph,  be  veiled  in 
obscurity ;  one  reason  of  which  may  be  that  his  mission, 
although  surpassingly  great,  was  not  to  be  of  a  public 
character.  He  did  not  come  to  speak  to  the  world,  and,  in 
fact,  we  do  not  possess  one  recorded  syllable  from  his  lips. 
Be  this  as  it  may,  we  are  left  to  our  devout  imaginations 
as  to  the  character  and  even  the  name  of  the  fortunate 
mother  of  our  glorious  saint. 

But  when  did  he  first  see  the  light  of  day?  What 
was  the  date  of  his  birth.?  What  was  the  year,  the 
month,  the  day?  Waiving  the  difficulties  which  have 
arisen  respecting  the  precise  date  of  the  Nativity,  and 
accepting  the  common  opinion  of  the  learned  Natalis 
Alexander1  that  Jesus  was  born  in  the  year  4,000  of  the 
creation  of  the  world,  there  would  still  remain  an  un- 
certainty as  to  the  year  of  St.  Joseph's  birth,  unless  we 
possessed  some  assured  record  of  his  age  at  the  time  of 
1  Seec.  i.  diss.  ii.  q.  1. 


his  espousals  with  the  Blessed  Virgin,  of  which  more  anon. 
As  respects  the  month,  the  month  of  March  being  through- 
out the  Church  dedicated  to  his  honour,  and,  indeed, 
commonly  called  the  Month  of  St.  Joseph,  some  would 
have  it  that  he  was  born  in  this  month,  and  allege  as 
proof  that  in  the  most  ancient  martyrologies  the  19th  of 
March,  which  we  keep  as  his  feast,  is  entered  as  his 
birth-day  ;  while  the  Christians  of  the  East,  particularly 
the  Copts,  Syrians,  and  Egyptians,  commemorated  the 
glorious  death  of  the  saint  on  the  20th  of  July.  This 
feast,  we  are  told  by  Isolano,  in  his  Summary  of  the  Gifts 
of  St.  Joseph,  the  Oriental  Christians  were  in  the  habit 
of  celebrating  with  great  veneration ;  whence  it  would 
follow  that  on  the  19th  of'  March  his  birth-day  alone  was 
kept.  The  same  opinion  has  been  held  in  more  recent 
times.  Nevertheless,  the  reasons  given  would  seem 
insufficient  to  establish  this  point ;  for  the  Church  has 
always  been  in  the  habit  of  regarding  the  day  when  a 
saint  departs  from  this  life  as  his  natal  day,  since  it  is 
then  that  he  is  born  to  glory ;  and  when  it  desires  to 
signify  that  the  feast  celebrates  his  birth  into  this  world 
the  word  nativity  is  expressly  used,  as  in  the  case  of  the 
Blessed  Virgin  and  of  St.  John  the  Baptist.  Moreover, 
it  is  a  question  whether  there  be  not  a  confusion,  in 
respect  to  this  custom  of  the  Orientals,  between  our 
patriarch,  who  in  the  Gospel  of  St.  Matthew  is  character- 
ised as  "just,"1  with  another  St.  Joseph  who  had  also 
the  cognomen  of  Just  and,  along  with  St.  Matthias,  was 
proposed  by  the  Apostles  as  successor  to  Judas  the 
traitor,  the  lot  falling  on  Matthias.2  Now,  the  martyr- 
dom of  this  St.  Joseph,  or  Barsabas,  surnamed  Justus,  is 
in  the  Epman  martyrology  on  the  20th  of  July  with  these 
words  :  "  The  natal  day  of  St.  Joseph,  surnamed  the 
Just ".  Hence  it  seems  more  probable,  and  morej  in 
conformity  with  the  tradition  of  the  Church,  that  it  is  St. 
1  St.  Matthew  i.  19.  2  Acts  i.  23. 

68  ST.    JOSEPH. 

Joseph's  happy  death  and  passage  to  glory  which  we 
commemorate  on  the  19th  of  March.  But,  as  the  Church 
celebrates  another  festival  in  his  honour,  that  of  his 
Patronage,  on  the  third  Sunday  after  Easter,  we  may 
well  feel  that  in  this  feast  a  memorial  of  his  nativity, 
which  may  have  occurred  about  this  season  of  the  year, 
is  included ;  for  in  the  first  vespers  Holy  Church  com- 
mences her  prayers  and  canticles  with  these  words  : 
"  Jacob  begat  Joseph,  the  husband  of  Mary,  of  whom 
was  born  Jesus,  who  is  called  Christ,"1  and  then  proceeds 
to  congratulate  St.  Joseph  on  being  constituted  as  lord 
over  His  house  and  ruler  over  all  His  possessions ;  just 
as  on  the  Nativity  of  Mary  she  says,  "  To-day  is  born 
the  Blessed  Virgin  Mary,  of  the  race  of  David,  through 
whom  has  appeared  to  believers  the  Salvation  of  the 

As  to  the  day  of  the  week  on  which  Joseph  was  born, 
we  have  nothing  to  guide  us  but  the  piety  of  the  faithful, 
by  the  common  consent  of  whom,  and  with  the  Church's 
approval,  all  the  Wednesdays  of  the  year  have  been  dedi- 
cated to  St.  Joseph ;  the  Eoman  Pontiffs  having,  more- 
over, enriched  with  indulgences  the  devout  practice  of 
honouring  him  specially  on  that  day.  We  may,  therefore, 
piously  believe  that  it  was  on  Wednesday  our  great 
patron  was  either  born  or  died. 

Four  cities  of  Judea  and  of  Galilee  have  disputed  the 
honour  of  being  this  great  saint's  birth-place  :  Jerusalem, 
Capharnaum,  Nazareth,  and  Bethlehem.  It  is  urged  in 
favour  of  the  claims  of  Jerusalem,  that  his  ancestors  of 
the  house  of  David  dwelt  on  the  hill  of  Sion,  the  city  of 
the  Great  King,  and,  even  in  their  depressed  fortunes, 
continued  to  make  it  their  place  of  refuge ;  so  that  it  was 
here  that  Joseph  was  born,  and  not  Joseph  only,  but 
Mary  herself,  the  house  which  St.  Joachim  and  St.  Anne 

1  Antiph.  in  I.  Vesp.  Patron.  St.  Joseph. 
2  Resp.  pri.  Noct.  in  Off.  Nativ.  B.  Marice  Virginls. 


inhabited  being  pointed  out  to  pilgrims  and  travellers. 
St.  John  Damascene,  confirms  this  opinion,  saying  that 
the  Blessed  Virgin  was  born  in  the  house  of  Joachim 
near  the  Probatic  Pool.  Nevertheless,  Jerusalem  has 
not  been  able  to  establish  its  title  to  be  the  birth-place  of 
either  Joseph  or  Mary. 

The  pretensions  of  Capharnaum,  standing  on  the 
shores  of  the  Lake  of  Tiberias,  were,  according  to 
Calmet,  grounded  on  the  familiar  acquaintance  which, 
as  we  learn  in  St.  John's  Gospel,  the  inhabitants  claimed 
to  have  with  Joseph,  the  reputed  father  of  Jesus.  '"Is 
not  this  Jesus,  they  said,  the  son  of  Joseph,  whose 
father  and  mother  we  know  ?  How,  then,  saith  He,  I  • 
came  down  from  heaven?"1  But  it  does  riot  necessarily 
follow  that,  because  the  people  of  Capharnaum  knew 
Joseph  well,  therefore  he  was  born  in  their  city.  He 
may  have  had  frequent  intercourse  with  them,  as  had 
Jesus  Himself,  of  whom,  as  we  know,  it  was  not  the 
birth-place.  "  Bethlehem,"  says  St.  John  Chrysostom, 
"gave  to  Jesus  His  place  of  nativity,  Nazareth  brought 
Him  up,  Capharnaum  was  His  continued  abode."2 

In  favour  of  Nazareth  higher  probabilities  may  be 
alleged.  St.  Luke  in  his  Gospel  says  that,  after  the  flight 
into  Egypt,  Joseph,  Mary,  and  Jesus  returned  to  "their 
city  Nazareth";3  and  St.  John  relates  how  Philip,  having 
seen  Jesus,  said  to  Nathaniel  that  they  had  found  the 
Messias  foretold  by  Moses  and  the  prophets,  Jesus  "  the 
son  of  Joseph  of  Nazareth".4  But,  as  regards  the  first 
text,  it  would  appear  that  Nazareth  was  rather  Mary's 
native  place  than  Joseph's,  and,  if  called  his  city  also,  it 
was  but  as  the  city  of  his  domicile,  where,  after  his 
espousals  with  Mary-,  he  had  his  fixed  abode.  From  the 
other  text  of  St.  John  it  is  also  clear  that  nothing  further 
can  be  concluded.  We  know  well  that  our  Lord  was 

1  St.  John  vi.  42.  2  Horn.  xiii.  in  Mattficeum. 

3  St.  Luke  ii.  39  ;  conf.  St.  Matthew  ii.  23.         4  St.  John  i.  45. 

70  ST.   JOSEPH. 

born  at  Bethlehem,  and  yet  He  is  called  "  Jesus  of  Na- 
zareth," and  continued  to  be  so  called.  The  same  may 
well  apply  to  St.  Joseph.  Nazareth  was,  indeed,  the 
birth-place  of  the  Blessed  Virgin,  and  became  the  per- 
manent abode  of  the  Holy  Family ;  wherefore  Jesus,  as 
well  as  Joseph,  was  said  to  be  of  Nazareth,  although  it 
'  was  the  native  place  of  neither. 

In  this  contest  Bethlehem  must  carry  off  the  palm  for 
the  following  reasons.  The  descendants  of  David  through 
Solomon  are  said  to  have  continued  to  abide  in  Bethle- 
hem, where  David  was  born,  and  to  have  returned  thither 
after  the  Babylonian  captivity,  the  site  of  the  house  of 
Isai,  his  father,  and  the  cisterns  belonging  to  it  being 
still  traditionally  pointed  out.  The  Fathers  accordingly 
called  Joseph  a  Bethlehemite,  meaning,  not  only  that  he 
was  of  the  house  and  family  of  David,  but  that  there  also 
he  was  born ;  and  Isolano  repeats  an  ancient  Oriental 
legend  in  which  it  is  expressly  said  that  Joseph  was  a 
carpenter,  born  at  Bethlehem,  of  the  house  of  David. 
But  the  most  substantial  and  conclusive  reason  is  the 
following:  that  in  the  census  which  Caesar  Augustus 
commanded  to  be  made  all  were  to  go  for  registration  to 
their  own  native  place,  and  Joseph,  prompt  in  his  obedience 
to  every  law,  even  human,  so  as  it  was  not  opposed  to  the 
divine  law,  immediately  repaired  with  his  holy  spouse 
Mary,  not  to  Jerusalem,  nor  to  Capharnaum,  but  to 
Bethlehem.  In  Bethlehem  Christ  was  to  be  born,  and 
from  little  it  was  to  become  great,  because,  as  the  Pro- 
phet Micheas  foretold,  out  of  it  was  to  come  forth  He 
who  was  to  be  the  ruler  of  Israel.1  But  previous  to  this 
honour  of  giving  birth  to  the  Messias,  the  Lord  of  the 
universe,  it  was  also  to  be  the  native  place  of  His  reputed 
father,  constituted  by  God  to  be  the  protector  and  patron 
of  the  Universal  Church. 

Let  us  in  spirit  betake  ourselves  to  the  dwelling-place 
1  Micheas  v.  2. 


of  Jacob,  and  bend  before  the  cradle  of  this  blessed  infant, 
upon  whose  serene  brow  repose  the  choicest  graces  of 
Heaven.  Let  us  bend  before  him  and  venerate  him,  and 
present  to  him  the  devout  affections  of  our  hearts.  He 
is  already  for  us  our  star,  our  hope,  and  he  will  be  our 
guide,  our  shield,  our  defence,  our  tutelary  angel.  Let 
us  offer  to  him  our  congratulations,  and,  kissing  his  feet, 
bless  our  compassionate  God  for  having  been  pleased  to 
bestow  on  the  human  family,  on  the  Catholic  Church, 
next  to  Mary,  the  sweetest,  the  most  holy,  the  most 
powerful  Patron. 

(  72 


birth  of  the  saints  is,  as  St.  Ambrose  observes,  the 
J_  cause  of  joy  to  many.  Thus,  before  John  the  Bap- 
tist came  into  the  world  the  angel  announced  to  Zachary 
that  many  should  rejoice  at  his  birth.1  Now,  Joseph  was, 
next  to  Mary,  the  most  eminent  among  the  saints,  and 
was  to  be  born  for  the  profit  of  all,  since  he  was  destined 
by  God  to  be  the  Patron  of  all  Christians.  How,  then, 
could  it  be  possible  that  his  nativity  should  pass  un- 
noticed and  not  be  the  cause  of  joy  in  Heaven  ? 

The  Blessed  Trinity  rejoiced  at  the  birth  of  him  who 
by  his  wisdom  and  prudence,  his  virginity  and  his  charity, 
should  veil  the  admirable  mystery  of  the  Incarnation 
from  the  eyes  of  the  profane  until  the  day  fixed  for  its 
revelation  ;  him  to  whom  the  Eternal  Father  was  wholly 
to  confide  His  Only-Begotten  Son  for  well-nigh  thirty 
years;  to  whom  this  Only-Begotten  Son  was  to  make 
Himself  subject,2  regarding  him  in  the  place  of  a  father  ; 
to  whom  the  Holy  Ghost  was  in  full  confidence  to  en- 
trust His  Immaculate  Spouse;  and  through  whom  the 
Most  Holy  Trinity  would  be  eternally  blessed,  as  It  was 
afterwards  to  be  in  a  yet  higher  degree  by  the  birth  of 
Mary,  of  whom  St.  Cyril  of  Alexandria  wrote,  "  Through 
her  the  Trinity  was  glorified,  Heaven  exulted,  and  the 
angels  were  made  glad".8  Moreover,  as  a  sign  of  predilec- 
tion, the  Blessed  Trinity  was  pleased  immediately  to 
confirm  our  saint  in  grace,  so  that  by  a  special  privilege 

1  St.  Luke  i.  14.        2  St.  Luke  ii.  51.        3  Horn.  vi.  in  Nestor. 

HIS    BIKTH    A   JOY   IN    HEAVEN.  73 

he  should  never  commit  even  a  venial  sin,  a  privilege 
which  was  most  fitting  in  him  who  was  to  be  in  the  place 
of  a  father  to  the  Son  of  God  and  the  true  spouse  of  His 
immaculate  and  holy  Mother.  Scripture  itself  tells  us 
that  the  glory  of  fathers  rests  upon  their  children ; l  and 
so,  too,  the  honour  of  a  husband  is  reflected  on  his  wife; 
wherefore  the  Blessed  Trinity  multiplied  Its  gifts  and 
graces  in  Joseph,  sanctifying  him  (as  we  have  shown)  in 
his  mother's  womb.  The  holy  doctor,  Alfonso  de'  Liguori, 
preaching  on  the  heart  of  St.  Joseph,  says,  "  God  having 
destined  Joseph  to  fill  the  office  of  father  to  the  Incarnate 
Word,  it  must  be  held  as  certain  that  He  conferred  upon 
him  all  the  gifts  of  wisdom  and  sanctity  befitting  such  an 
office  ".  And  then  he  adduces  in  particular  the  three- 
fold privilege  which  Gerson  and  Suarez  attribute  to  him : 
that  of  being  sanctified  in  the  womb,  confirmed  in  grace, 
exempted  from  the  rebellion  of  concupiscence .  "0  blesssed 
for  ever,''  he  exclaims,  "be  the  adorable  goodness  of  God 
who  so  nobly  exalted  Joseph,  for  our  advantage  also  and 
that  of  the  whole  Church  ! " 

All  the  angelic  hierarchies  rejoiced  at  the  birth  of 
Joseph,  because  they  beheld  the  time  arrived  when 
Heaven  should  be  re-opened  and  the  seats  which  were 
left  vacant  by  the  rebel  angels  should  again  be  filled.  On 
seeing  him  raised -to  an  order  superior  even  to  the  highest 
angelic  choirs,  seized  with  a  holy  wonder,  they  sang  Glory 
to  God,  and  joyfully  honoured  him  as  the  foster-father  of 
their  King  and  the  spouse  of  their  glorious  Queen.  But 
especially  did  those  heavenly  spirits  rejoice  who  were 
chosen  by  God  to  guard  him  with  loving  reverence.  To 
every  human  being,  as  we  know,  God  appoints  at  his 
birth  a  guardian- angel,  who  shall  faithfully  accompany, 
defend,  and  protect  him  in  all  the  necessities  and  perils 
of  life ;  and  to  one  who  is  to  hold  high  offices  committed 
to  him  by  God  for  the  benefit  of  others,  a  second  angel 
1  Prov.  xvii.  6. 

74  ST.    JOSEPH. 

of  a  superior  order  is  assigned,  that  he  may  be  enabled 
more  efficaciously  to  fulfil  the  mission  with  which 
he  has  been  charged.1  "  Oh,  how  high,"  exclaims  the 
great  doctor,  St.  Jerome,  "is  the  dignity  of  souls,  which 
from  the  moment  of  their  birth  have  each  of  them  an 
angel  appointed  by  God  as  guardian! "2  But  if  a  soul  is 
glorious  which  has  a  single  tutelary  angel  given  it,  how 
much  more  glorious  must  that  soul  be  which  is  surrounded 
by  many  sublime  spirits  of  Paradise  !  And  such  we  must 
fain  believe  was  the  case  with  our  great  saint. 

But  it  may  be  asked,  if  Joseph  was  confirmed  in  grace 
and  freed  from  tfce  solicitations  of  concupiscence,  what 
need  had  he  of  angelic  guardianship?  If  he  was  thus 
specially  protected  by  God,  nay,  was  himself  appointed  to 
be  the  faithful  guardian  of  Jesus  and  Mary,  if  he  was 
placed  in  an  order  superior  to  that  of  the  angels,  does  it 
not  seem  that  these  spirits  should  be  given  to  him  rather 
as  attendants  than  as  guardians  ?  In  reply  to  this  ob- 
jection we  must  repeat  that  if  Joseph,  as  Doctors  of  the 
Church  affirm,  excelled  the  angels  in  dignity,  he  was  not 
their  superior  in  nature,  since  the  angelic  nature  is  un- 
doubtedly higher  than  the  human ;  and,  indeed,  in  this 
was  manifest  the  surpassing  goodness  of  the  Son  of  God 
towards  us,  that,  when  He  would  redeem  the  world  from 
the  bondage  of  sin,  He  humbled  Himself  to  assume  our 
human  nature  and  not  that  of  the  angels. 

Now,  let  us  see  if  it  was  needful  that  Joseph  should 
have  the  guardianship  of  angels,  and  in  what  sense  it 
was  needful.  The  Angelic  Doctor,  St.  Thomas,  speaking 
of  man  in  his  state  of  innocence,  says  that,  although, 
through  his  possession  of  original  justice,  all  within  him 

1  A  remarkable  instance  of  this  is  recorded  in  the  Life  of  M. 
Olier,  the  venerable  founder  of  the  Seminary  of  St.  Sulpice,  who 
himself  relates  the  singular  circumstance  under  which  he  was  given 
an  angel  of  his  office  in  addition  to  his  own  angel-guardian. — Chap. 
iii.  pp.  43,  44. 

2  Comment,  in  Matthceum,  cap.  xviii. 

HIS   BIRTH   A   JOY   IN   HEAVEN.  75 

-was  well  regulated,  nevertheless,  as  he  was  exposed  to 
dangers  from  without,  he  needed  the  guardianship  of 
angels.  .And  the  same  great  doctor  says,  speaking  of  the 
Blessed  Virgin,  that,  as  she  was  not  in  statu  comprehenso- 
rum,  but  was  still  in  via,1  she  required  while  on  earth  to 
have  angelic  guardians.  From  all  which  we  may  infer 
that  Joseph,  albeit  innocent  and  confirmed  in  grace, 
needed  the  same  loving  tutelage.  For  if  it  behoved  the 
Blessed  Virgin  to  have  this  guardianship,  who  was  Mother 
of  God  and  herself  the  Queen  of  Angels,  how  much  more 
must  Joseph,  who  was  far  inferior,  have  required  it,  both 
on  account  of  perils  from  without,  and  also  because  he 
was  in  the  state  of  viator  ;  for  it  is  precisely  to  such  as 
are  in  the  way  that  God  appoints  the  angels  as  guardians ; a 
with  this  difference,  however,  that,  whereas  to  other  men 
the  angels  are  given  as  veritable  guides,  directors,  and 
tutors,  as  superiors  for  the  government  of  inferiors,  who 
have  actual  need  of  being  assisted  and  ruled  in  all  things, 
to  Mary  and  to  Joseph  they  were  assigned  as  guards  of 
honour,  who,  clearing  the  way  before  them  and  removing 
every  external  peril,  should  bring  them  high  messages 
from  Heaven,  and  form  their  glorious  retinue.  A  learned 
doctor,  Tostatus  Abulensis,  thus  sums  up  the  purposes  for 
which  guardian- angels  were  assigned  to  Joseph  from  his 
birth.  1.  For  his  solace  and  comfort  in  life.  2.  To  guide 
him  externally,  and  warn  .him  of  impending  dangers.  3. 
To  remove  every  impediment  which  men  or  devils  should 
cast  in  his  way.  4.  For  the  fuller  enlightenment  of  his 
mind.  5.  For  the  increase  of  his  merit.  6.  To  com- 
municate to  him  the  will  of  God.  7.  To  pay  him  honour 
as  the  spouse  of  Mary  and  the  reputed  father  of  Jesus. 
And  that  not  one  angel  alone  but  many  were  assigned 

1  Summa,  p.  i.   q.  cxiii.  a.  4 ;  p.  iii.  q.  xxx.  a.  2.      By  in  statu 
comprekensorum  is  meant  the  state  of  those  who  have  attained  to 
their  end,  the  beatific  vision  of  God  in  Heaven  ;  by  in  via,  the  state 
of  those  who  are  still  traversing  the  way  of  this  life. 
2  Psalm  xc.  11. 

76  ST.    JOSEPH. 

to  Joseph  may  be  inferred  from  the  fact  that,  when  Divine 
Goodness  elects  any  individual  for  a  sublime  position  in- 
volving most  important  offices,  It  never  fails  to  furnish  him 
with  the  necessary  means  of  fulfilling  his  obligations, 
among  which,  in  addition  to  interior  gifts  and  graces, 
must  be  reckoned  the  consolations  and  external  advan- 
tages which  the  guardianship  of  angels  affords.  St. 
Bernardine  of  Siena,  quoting  the  opinion  of  St.  John 
Chrysostom,  St.  George  of  Nicomedia,  and  St.  Bonaven- 
tura,  affirms  that  to  the  Blessed  Virgin,  already  so  specially 
protected  by  God  Himself,  many  legions  of  angels  were 
assigned  as  guardians.  How,  then,  could  it  be  that  to 
Joseph,  the  spouse  of  Mary,  to  him  who  was  honoured  by 
God  not,  indeed,  as  highly  as  was  Mary,  but,  next  to  her, 
above  all  others,  only  one  angel  should  be  given,  con- 
sidering, moreover,  the  various  exalted  offices  for  which 
he  was  chosen,  for  each  of  which  we  may  believe  he  had 
a  special  angel  appointed  to  assist  him  ?  Some  would 
have  to  serve  as  a  guard  to  his  person,  others  to  pay  due 
honour  to  his  dignity,  as  the  reputed  father  of  Jesus  and 
the  spouse  of  Mary.  Whence  a  pious  writer,  P.  Patrig- 
nani,  says  that  "St.  Joseph  was  the  most  highly  favoured 
of  men,  being  assisted  and  honoured  by  angels.  He 
received  from  them  consolation  in  sufferings,  light  in 
perplexities,  service  and  aid  in  toils  and  labours  ".  Then, 
turning  to  the  saint,  he  exclaims*,  "  I  marvel  not,  0  most 
glorious  St.  Joseph,  that  thou  wast  so  favoured  by  the 
angels,  since  thou  wast  so  like  to  them  in  thy  own  angelic 
purity.  Neither  do  I  marvel  that  they  should  be,  so  to 
say,  ambitious  of  serving  thee,  seeing  that  they  regarded 
thee  as  superior  in  dignity  to  themselves."  1  And  these 
very  angels,  belonging  even  to  the  highest  among  the 
angelic  hierarchies,  who  afterwards  consoled  him,  accom- 
panied him,  and  strengthened  him  in  the  numerous 
painful  vicissitudes  of  his  life,  these  same  glorious  spirits 
1  II  Divoto  di  S.  Giuseppe,  Novena,  Gior.  vii. 

HIS   BIETH   A   JOY   IN   LIMBO.  77 

does  Joseph  now  employ  to  succour  so  many  who  mourn, 
so  many  afflicted  families,  and,  in  fine,  the  whole  Church 
Catholic  placed  under  his  protection  ;  saying  to  them,  in 
the  language  of  the  prophet  Isaias,  "  Go,  ye  swift  angels, 
to  a  nation  rent  and  torn  in  pieces  ...  to  a  nation  ex- 
pecting and  trodden  under  foot  ",l  These  angels,  not  only 
joyfully  fulfil  his  behests,  but  vie  with  each  other  in 
forestalling  his  holy  desires  ;  and  no  wonder,  since, 
seeing  that  Jesus,  their  King,  the  King  of  angels  and  of 
men,  made  Himself  subject  and  obedient  to  Joseph,  they 
know  not  how  better  to  honour  so  great  a  saint  than  by 
paying  him  the  highest  reverence  and  homage,  the 
humblest  and  most  entire  subjection.  Here,  then,  we 
perceive  the  reason  why  at  his  happy  birth  they  sur- 
rounded him  with  such  festal  joy. 

The  joy  they  felt  must  have  had  its  echo  among  the 
tristful  inhabitants  of  Limbo,  to  whom  angels,  doubtless, 
reported  the  blessed  tidings  that  the  hour  of  their  deliver- 
ance was  approaching.  The  birth  of  Joseph  was  the  first 
signal  of  the  coming  of  Christ.  Joseph  was  the  morning 
star  announcing  the  aurora  which  precedes  the  day.  The 
rays  of  this  star  must  have  filled  that  gloomy  abode  with 
light.  And,  oh,  with  what  exceeding  complacency  the 
holy  Fathers,  turning  their  eyes  to  Bethlehem,  must  have 
•contemplated  the  infant  Joseph,  seeing  how  in  him  all 
their  patriarchal  and  prophetic  dignity  was  about  to  bear 
its  promised  fruit  !  How  they  must  have  blessed  the 
birth  of  this  child,  whose  appearance  in  the  world  brought 
with  it  the  assurance  that  soon  their  bonds  would  be 
broken,  their  prison  opened,  their  banishment  ended,  and 
that  they  would  behold  their  long-desired  Eedeemer ! 
The  very  thought  must  have  caused  them  unutterable 


1  Chap,  xviii.  2. 

(  78 


WHEN  Heaven  smiles,  there  must  be  responsive  joy 
on  earth,  at  least  in  some  chosen  hearts;  and 
among  these  foremost  must  have  been  Joseph's  fortunate 
parents.  He  was  their  first-born  son,  and  as  such,  ac- 
cording to  the  custom  of  the  Jews,  a  subject  of  much 
rejoicing.  But  although  a  veil  is  cast  over  his  infancy 
and  early  years,  and  no  reliable  tradition  has  reached  us 
on  the  subject,  we  can  scarcely  imagine  that  no  wonder- 
ful signs  preceded  it,  such  as  have  announced  the  birth 
of  saints  much  inferior  to  him  both  in  office  and  in  sanctity. 
If  so  many  prodigies  ushered  in  the  birth  of  John  the 
Baptist,  who  was  a  great  prophet  and  the  precursor  of 
Christ,  is  it  conceivable  that  no  divine  intimation  pre- 
ceded that  of  Joseph,  the  reputed  father  of  Jesus,. 
whom  he  brought  up,  and  by  whom  he  was  so  tenderly 
loved?  But  since  nothing  of  the  kind  is  recorded  the 
matter  must  be  left  to  the  pious  -  conjectures  of  his  de- 
voted clients. 

One  surmise,  however,  may  be  hazarded.  On  the 
eighth  day  the  babe  must  have  been  circumcised;  accord- 
ing to  the  command  given  to  Abraham  and  confirmed  by 
the  law  of  Moses.  On  that  occasion  a  name  was  always 
conferred  on  the  child,  and  it  was  the  father's  place  to 
pronounce  what  it  should  be ;  for  we  find  that  when  the 
Baptist  received  that  rite  reference  was  made  to  Zachary 
as  to  how  he  would  have  him  called,  and  he  wrote  "His. 

HIS   BIRTH    A   JOY    ON    EARTH.  79 

name  is  John".1  Jesus  Himself  received  His  Name  on 
the  eighth  day,  the  day  of  His  circumcision.  The  name 
of  Joseph  must,  therefore,  have  been  given  to  our  saint 
on  the  day  of  his  circumcision ;  and  by  whom  was  it 
given  ?  Assuredly  by  Jacob,  his  father,  in  virtue  of  his 
paternal  authority.  But  whence  did  the  father  derive 
this  name  ?  Who  suggested  it  to  him  ?  Did  he  receive 
it  from  Heaven?  We  can  hardly  imagine  that  it  was 
bestowed  on  this  elect  babe,  as  we  might  say,  by  chance, 
for  in  that  case  Joseph  would  have  been  inferior  in  this 
respect  to  many  saints  both  of  the  Old  and  New  Testa- 
ment, who  by  a  special  favour  received  their  names  from 
God :  as  Abraham,  Jacob,  the  Baptist,  St.  Peter,  and 

Now,  since  it  is  the  common  opinion  of  %  the  Doctors  of 
the  Church  that  no  gift  or  prerogative  bestowed  on  the 
other  saints,  Mary  always  excepted,  was  denied  to  St. 
Joseph,  it  has  been  held  by  many  writers  to  be  most 
probable  that  the  name  of  Joseph  was  revealed  by  an 
angel  from  God  to  his  father  Jacob,  as  was  that  of  John 
to  Zachary.  Three  reasons,  according  to  Isolano,  ought 
to  persuade  us  that  this  name  was  given  to  Joseph  by 
God  Himself.  Fir^t,  its  identity  with  that  of  the  ancient 
patriarch  Joseph,  who  on  account  of  the  wonderful  things 
narrated  of  him  has  always  been  regarded  as  the  type 
and  figure  of  our  saint.  Secondly,  the  very  fact  that  he 
was  truly  the  spouse  of  the  Mother  of  God  and  the 
foster-father  of  Jesus;  for,  if  God  gave  their  names  to 
Abraham,  Jacob,  and  Peter,  with  how  -much  greater 
reason  would  He  bestow  a  name  on  him  who  was  to  be 
brought  into  such  close  relations  with  His  Divine  Son ! 
Thirdly,  the  signification  of  the  name  itself,  which  is 
interpreted  as  increase,  a  name  most  suitable  to  him  in 
every  way.2 

The  Angelic  Doctor,  St.  Thomas,  says  that  the  names 
1  St.  Luke  i.  63.  2  Summa  de  Donis  8.  Joseph,  p.  i.  c.  i. 

80  ST.    JOSEPH. 

imposed  by  God  on  certain  individuals  are  always  signi- 
ficant of  some  gratuitous  gift  divinely  conceded  to  them.1 
Thus  the  name  given  by  God  to  Joseph,  not  only  denotes 
the  various  gifts  bestowed  upon  him  for  the  fulfilment  of 
the  great  offices  for  which  he  was  designed,  but  points 
also  to  the  continual  increase  of  these  gifts  through  his 
co-operation  and  perfect  correspondence  with  divine 
grace.  If  the  name  of  Mary,  according  to  St.  Bonaven- 
.tura,  was  extracted  from  the  treasures  and  jewel-caskets 
of  the  Lord,  from  the  same  treasures  and  jewel-caskets 
was  drawn  the  beautiful  name  of  Joseph.  It  could  not 
have  been  selected  or  imposed  by  men,  because  it  was  to 
be  closely  and  inseparably  associated  with  the  Divine 
Name  of  Jesus  and  the  holy  name  of  Mary.  It  was  to 
be  frequently  pronounced  by  the  august  lips  of  Jesus  and 
to  issue  sweetly  from  the  pure  lips  of  His  Virgin  Mother. 
It  was  often  to  be  registered  in  the  Gospel,  finding  its 
place  sometimes  before,  sometimes  between,  sometimes 
after  the  blessed  Names  of  Jesus  and  of  Mary.  The  angels 
were  often  to  repeat  it  in  their  messages,  and  men  often 
to  invoke  it  in  their  needs.  Many,  indeed,  of  God's 
people  have  borne  this  name,  but  in  them  it  was  a  simple 
appellation,  void  of  special  significance*,  but  not  so  in  our 
saint.  In  him  it  is  full  of  meaning,  a  name  of  great 
authority,  of  singular  efficacy,  of  inestimable  value.  By 
interpretation  it  signifies,  as  has  been  said,  increase  ;  and 
so  the  ancient  Jacob  said,  prophesying,  "Joseph  is  a 
growing  son,"2  or,  according  to  the  Hebrew,  "growing  by 
a  well".  And  what  is  this  life-giving  fount  near  to 
which  Joseph  grows  and  increases?  First,  it  is  Jesus 
the  well-spring  of  eternal  life ;  secondly,  it  is  Mary,  who 
is  the  fountain  conveying  all  the  benedictions  of  Heaven. 
Close  to  these  two  inexhaustible  fountains  Joseph  grew, 
he  increased  in  all  good ;  and  not  for  himself  alone,  but 
also  for  us.  He  not  only  grew,  but  flourished  and  bore 
1  Stcmma,  p.  iii.  q.  xxxvii.  a.  2.  2  Gen.  xlix.  22. 

HIS    BIRTH    A   JOY    ON   EARTH.  81 

fruit.1  Hence  this  name  of  Joseph  imports  for  us  like- 
wise continual  increase,  being  so  efficacious  and  powerful 
both  with  Jesus  and  with  Mary. 

Joseph,  sweet  name,  name  sublime  and  powerful,  name 
which  imparts  gladness  to  the  just,  consolation  to  the 
afflicted,  solace  to  those  in  tribulation,  support  to  the 
feeble,  courage  to  the  timid,  constancy  to  the  wavering, 
confidence  to  sinners,  and  to  the  penitent  the  assurance 
of  pardon !  Name  which  is  a  deliverance  in  perils,  a 
harbour  in  tempests,  food  in  hunger,  relief  in  destitution, 
peace  in  discords,  victory  in  combats,  health  in  sickness, 
and  refuge  in  persecutions,  a  joy  amidst  tears,  a  shield,  a 
defence,  and  a  salvation  in  the  last  agonies  !  This  name 
defeats  every  plot  of  the  infernal  foe,  dissipates  every  bale- 
ful temptation,  puts  the  devils  to  flight,  and  makes  Hell 
itself  tremble.  Blessed  is  he  who  often  in  life  invokes  it ; 
blessed  he  who  is  able  to  invoke  it  devoutly  at  death. 
He  who  has  this  holy  name  engraven  on  his  brow  and  on 
his  heart  has  a  sure  pledge  of  his  salvation.  St.  Bona- 
ventura,  speaking  of  those  who  are  devout  to  Mary,  says 
that  he  who  is  stamped  with  her  character,  that  is,  with 
the  love  of  her  and  of  her  virtues,  and  with  the  properties 
of  a  true  devotion  to  her,  will  be  registered  in  the  Book 
of  Life.  And  the  same  may  be  said  of  those  who  have 
the  character,  the  love,  the  virtues  of  Joseph,  and  a  true 
devotion  to  him.  Blessed,  then,  is  he  who  reposes  under 
the  safe  shadow  of  the  name  and  patronage  of  Joseph. 

1  "  Joseph  est  eritque  filius  fructificationis  ;  id  'est,  fcecundus 
instar  arboris  sites  et  fructificantis  juxta  fonteni." — Corn,  a  Lapide 
(in  loc.). 

(  82 


THE  rite  of  Circumcision  being  accomplished  and  the 
name  bestowed,  the  offering  of  the  first-born  in  the 
Temple  would  next  succeed.  That  Joseph  was  a  first- 
born son  there  can  be  no  doubt.  This  opinion  will  hold 
good  whichever  of  the  two  views  that  have  been  stated 
concerning  his  genealogy  be  the  correct  one.  For  if,  ac- 
cording to  the  view  with  which  we  do  not  agree,  Jacob 
married  the  widow  of  Heli,  who  had  died  without  chil- 
dren, Joseph  would  still  be  the  first-born  of  this  marriage. 
But  we  must  own  to  a  disinclination  to  believe  that 
Joseph  was  the  son  of  a  mother  who  had  been  the  wife 
of  more  than  one  husband.  Such  a  mother  scarcely 
seemed  to  befit  him.  who  was  to  be  the  pure  spouse  of 
a  heavenly  virgin  and  the  reputed  father  of  the  Son  of 
God  Himself.  Wherefore,  we  abide  by  the  opinion  that 
Joseph  was  the  first-born  of  Jacob  and  of  a  young  and 
holy  spouse  who  had  never  been  wedded  to  any  other 

That  Joseph  was  a  first-born  son  we  desire  to  establish, 
because  under  the  ancient  law  it  was  esteemed  an  honour 
and  a  privilege  to  be  so  ;  and  many  advantages  were 
attached  to  primogeniture.  We  can,  therefore,  well 
understand  how  when  Esau  recognised  the  great  loss  he 
had  incurred  by  selling  his  birthright  for  such  a  trifle  to 
his  brother,  he  was  filled  with  consternation  and  cried 
aloud  for  grief.1  Seeing,  then,  that  primogeniture  was  an 
1  Gen.  xxvii.  34. 


important  prerogative,  and  that  Joseph  was  to  sum  up  in 
himself  all  the  gifts  and  privileges  of  the  patriarchs,  he 
must  needs  have  possessed  the  rights  and  advantages 
of  a  first-born  son.  This  being  so,  Joseph,  as  we  have 
said,  was  taken  to  Jerusalem  to  be  presented  in  the 
Temple,  and  redeemed  according  to  the  prescriptions  of 
the  Law. 

Jerusalem  at  that  period  had  already  begun  to  decline. 
After  the  profanations,  the  outrages,  and  the  cruelties 
perpetrated  by  the  monarchs  who  inherited  the  conquests 
of  Alexander  the  Great  in  Syria,  especially  by  Antiochus 
Epiphanes,  the  heroic  resistance  of  the  Machabees  had 
obtained  a  temporary  deliverance,  but  the  Holy  City  had 
now  virtually  fallen  under  the  domination  of  the  Romans, 
who  had  appointed  as  procurator  of  Judea  Antipater,  the 
father  of  Herod.     All  who  were  of  the  race  and  family  of 
David  would  court  obscurity  and  concealment  through 
the  fear  inspired  by  their  jealous  rulers.     Nevertheless 
we  may  be  certain  that,  although  avoiding  pomp  and 
display,  the  pious  Jacob  and  his  spouse  must  have  care- 
fully fulfilled  all  the  obligations  of  the  law  with  respect 
to  the  infant  Joseph,  and  have  also  brought  him  yearly 
with  them  to  Jerusalem,  as  soon  as  his  tender  age  per- 
mitted,  for   the   Paschal   solemnity.       And  with   what 
ecstasy,  may  we  well  believe,  would  this  favoured  child, 
when  kneeling  in  the  Temple,  have  joined  in  the  exclama- 
tion of  the  Psalmist :  "  How  lovely  are  Thy  tabernacles, 
O  Lord  of  Hosts  !  my  soul  longeth  and  fainteth  for  the 
courts  of  the  Lord  " ; l  and  with  what  difficulty  he  would 
have  torn  himself  away  from  the  House  of  God,  where 
willingly,  like  the  young  Samuel,  he  would  have  remained 
to  spend  his  childhood  and  adolescence  in  the  service  and 
under  the  instruction  of  God's  priests  ! 

As  time  wore  on,  we  may  easily  suppose  that,  when 
the  parents  of  Joseph  came  up  with  their  son  to  keep  the 
1  Psalm  Ixxxiii.  1. 

84  ST.    JOSEPH. 

feasts  at  Jerusalem,  it  would  be  to  the  house  of  Joachim 
they  would  repair,  who  at  that  period  must  have  been 
already  married  to  Anne,  the  sister,  as  we  have  already 
stated  there  is  good  reason  to  believe,  of  Jacob,  and 
therefore  the  aunt  of  Joseph.  According  to  the  testimony 
of  St.  John  Damascene,  and  of  a  still  living  tradition,  the 
house  of  St.  Joachim  and  St.  Anne  was  near  the  Probatic 
Pool.1  Here  they  dwelt  for  many  years,  until  civil  dis- 
turbances, probably,  compelled  their  removal  to  Nazareth, 
where  they  had  a  small  patrimony.  Antipater  had  been 
succeeded  in  the  post  of  procurator  of  Judea  by  Antigonus, 
the  son  of  Aristobulus,  but  Herod  his  son,  artful  and 
ambitious,  by  ingratiating  himself  with  the  Eomans,  had 
himself  named  Tetr'arch  by  the  Senate,  and  two  years 
later  obtained  the  title  of  King  of  Judea,  though  some  time 
elapsed  before  he  was  able  to  assume  his  authority.  This 
Herod  was  (as  we  have  said)  the  son  of  Antipater,  an 
Ascalonite  by  nation,  and  an  idolater.  Although  Judea 
had  for  some  time  been  dependent  on  Borne  and  ruled,  in 
fact,  by  her  representatives,  nevertheless  the  sceptre  had 
not  as  yet  departed  from  her.  •  No  stranger  had  been  set 
up  as  king  of  the  chosen  people.  Now,  this  was  to  be 
the  sign  of  the  approaching  advent  of  the  Messias,  a 
thought  which,  under  this  new  calamity,  must  have 
a,fforded  consolation  to  those  souls  who  were  looking  for 
the  redemption  of  Israel ;  and  they  could  not  have  been 
few  in  number,  since  the  near  accomplishment  of  the 
prophetic  term  of  weeks,  announced  in  vision  to  Daniel 2 
as  to  elapse  before  the  coming  of  Christ,  furnished  an 
additional  token  that  the  great  Deliverer  was  at  hand. 
And,  indeed,  we  find  that  this  expectation  had  reached 
the  ears  of  the  Gentiles  and  prevailed  throughout  the 
East,  where  it  was  generally  known  that  the  Hebrew 

1  Here  was  erected  in  the  6th  century  a  church  in  honour  of  St. 
Anne,  which  remains  to  this  day. 

8  Chap.  ix.  24,  25. 


people  were  looking  for  a  King  who  would  restore  the 
glories  of  their  nation. 

Great  consternation  seized  on  the  Jews  at  the  news  of 
the  elevation  of  this  foreign  and  idolatrous  usurper  to  the 
throne  of  David.  Had  they  not  reason  to  dread  the  pro- 
fanation of  their  temple,  as  in  the  days  of  Antiochus 
Bpiphanes,  the  cessation  of  their  sacrifices,  the  destruc- 
tion of  their  altars,  the  dispersion  of  their  priests,  besides 
all  the  miseries  which  the  conflict  of  this  new  ruler  with 
Antigonus  was  certain  to  involve?  Prayer  was  their 
only  resource  ;  and  we  may  be  sure  that  among  the  most 
fervent  suppliants  were  Jacob  and  his  young  son,  Joseph ; 
nay,  may  we  not  piously  believe  that  when,  contrary  to 
expectation,  Herod  subsequently,  not  only  did  not  destroy 
the  Temple,  but  largely  reconstructed  and  adorned  it,  it 
was  to  the  intercession  of  this  holy  child,  who  of  all 
the  dwellers  upon  earth  at  that  time  was  dearest  and 
most  pleasing  to  God,  that  this  happy  result  was  mainly 
due  ?  Two  years  after  Herod's  exaltation  to  the  king- 
ship of  Judea  he,  with  the  assistance  of  the  Eomans, 
whose  friendship  he  had  bought,  marched  against  Jerusa- 
lem, which  during  five  months  had  to  endure  all  the 
horrors  of  a  siege ;  added  to  which,  when  its  capture  was 
effected,  there  ensued  a  fearful  slaughter  of  the  inhabi- 
tants by  the  Eoman  soldiery,  enraged  at  the  resistance 
they  had  encountered,  and  by  the  partisans  of  Herod 
within  the  walls. 

Amidst  all  these  dangers  and  calamities,  Providence 
threw  the  shield  of  Its  protection  over  the  family  of 
Joseph.  But  the  early  life  of  this  great  saint  is  so  com- 
pletely hidden  in  God  that  we  must  be  contented  to  know 
that  so  it  was,  deprived  as  we  are  of  details  which  would 
have  possessed  so  high  an  interest  for  us.  All  we  know 
for  certain  is  that  Joseph  had  to'  pass  all  his  childhood 
and  youth  under  the  tyrannical  rule  of  a  proud,  cruel,  and 
jealous  king;  and  hence  always  in  peril,  anxiety,  and 

86  ST.    JOSEPH. 

fear  of  fresh  sufferings.  History,  so  often  unjust,  has 
accorded  to  Herod  the  appellation  of  Great,  simply  be- 
cause he  was  fortunate  in  his  vices  and  in  the  success 
which  his  arrogance,  his  adroit  cunning,  and  his  cruelty 
won  for  him.  Such  an  epithet  ought  to  be  reserved  for 
those  who  have  excelled  in  noble  and  signal  virtues, 
whereas  Herod  was  great  only  in  his  follies  and  in  his 
crimes.  The  massacre  of  so  many  innocent  babes  in 
Bethlehem  after  our  Lord's  nativity  would  alone  suffice 
to  blacken  his  memory  and  render  it  for  ever  infamous. 
But  besides  this,  he  was  continually  staining  his 
hands  in  blood ;  priests  and  laymen  •  alike,  princes  and 
high  officers  in  his  army,  he  would  order  to  be  executed, 
sometimes  thirty  at  a  time.  He  murdered  his  wife, 
Mariamne,  and  Alexandra,  his  sister-in-law,  nay,  even 
his  own  sons  Alexander,  Aristobulus,  and  Antipater,  the 
last  of  whom  he  condemned  to  death  only  five  days 
before  he  himself  expired.  To  conciliate  the  people, 
however,  he  gave  liberally  when  the  country  was  deso- 
lated by  plague  and  famine ;  he  embellished  Jerusalem, 
and  enlarged  the  -Temple ;  but  this  did  not  prevent  the 
Jews  from  hating  him  as  a  tyrant,  so  that  he  had  to 
fortify  his  regal  abode  and  make  to  himself  a  citadel  of 
the  tower  Antonia,  which  he  built  and  named  after  his 
patron,  Marcus  Antonius.  He  was  frequently  accused 
at  Rome  both  to  Antonius  and  to  Augustus,  but  he  knew 
how  to  defend  himself  so  dextrously  that  fce  returned 
triumphant  to  Jerusalem,  where  he  put  to  death  all  whom 
he  suspected  of  having  been  his  accusers. 

Under  this  impious  and  sanguinary  king,  then,  Joseph 
had  to  pass  his  youth.  As  a  descendant  of  the  royal  family 
of  David,  he  had  reason  (as  we  have  said)  to  live  in  con- 
tinual apprehension.  Jealousy  and  the  fierce  thirst  of 
rule  stimulated  Herod  to  rid  himself  of  any  one  who  he 
could  so  much  as  suppose  might  entertain  the  thought  of 
depriving  him  of  his  usurped  dominion.  But  that  Divine 


Providence  which  had  destined  Joseph  to  co-operate  in 
the  great  mystery  of  the  Incarnation  of  the  Son  of  God 
preserved  and  brought  him  safe  through  all  the  dangers 
which  beset  him.  His  meekness,  humility,  contempt  for 
all  the  empty  honours  of  the  world,  his  peaceful  temper,  his 
submission  to  all  the  requirements  of  law,  and  the  hidden 
and  obscure  life  which  he  led,  must  have  contributed  to 
turn  away  all  suspicion  from  this  scion  of  the  house  of 
David.  Accordingly,  we  do  not  hear  of  Herod's  persecut- 
ing the  family  of  Jacob,  as  he  did  all  the  partisans  of 
Aristobulus  and  Hyrcanus.  Jacob  had  one  other  son 
besides  Joseph,  the  same,  according  to  the  historian 
Eusebius  and  others,  who  is  frequently  mentioned  in  the 
Gospel  as  Cleophas,  or  Alpheus,  and  whose  sons  are 
called  the  brethren  of  our  Lord,1  that  is,  His  cousins. 
So,  too,  Mary,  the  wife  of  Cleophas,  who  is  also  called  in 
the  first  three  Gospels  the  mother  of  James  and  Joseph, 
is  styled  by  St.  John  the  sister  of  the  Mother  of  Jesus ; 2 
not  that  she  was  her  sister  in  the  literal  sense  of  the 
term,  but  her  sister-in-law  and,  indeed  (as  it  is  believed), 
otherwise  nearly  related  to  her. 

An  ancient  Oriental  tradition,  which  Isolano  has  in- 
serted in  his  work  on  the  Gifts  of  St.  Joseph,  records  how 
our  saint,  when  he  must  have  been  about  twelve  years  of 
age,  went  to  Jerusalem,  as  other  youths  were  wont  to  do, 
there  to  learn  science  and  wisdom  from  the  Priests  of  the 
Lord,  who  were  its  sole  teachers  in  those  times.  But 
however  this  may  be,  to  render  this  science  and  wisdom 

1  St.  Matthew  xiii.  55. 

2  St.  Matthew  xxvii.  56 ;  St.  Mark  xv.  40,  47  ;  xvi.  1 ;  St.  Luke 
xxiv.  10 ;  St.  John  xix.  25.  Mary,  the  wife  of  Cleophas,  or  Alpheus, 
had  five  sons  and  two  daughters.  The  sons  were  Simon  Zelotes, 
James  the  Less,  and  Jude,  or  Thaddeus,  all  three  Apostles,  Joseph 
surnamed  the  Just  (Acts  i.  23),  and  Simeon,  a  disciple  of  Jesus. 
The  two  daughters  were  Mary  Salome  (St.  Markxv.  40 ;  xvi.  1),  wife 
of  Zebedee  and  mother  of  James  the  Greater  and  John  the  Evange- 
list (St.  Matt.  xx.  20  ;  xxvii.  56),  and  another  Mary  who  is  supposed 
to  have  been  the  mother  of  John  surnamed  Mark  (Acts  xii.  12). 

88  ST.    JOSEPH. 

truly  perfect,  God  reserved  for  Joseph  far  more  sublime 
instructors,  the  Incarnate  Word  Himself,  and  her  whom 
the  Church  invokes  under  the  title  of  Sedes  Sapientiae, 
Seat  of  Wisdom,  the  Immaculate  Virgin.  In  the  school 
of  Jesus  and  in  the  society  of  Mary  for  some  thirty  years 
Joseph  must  have  become  eminently  perfect  in  the  science 
of  the  saints.  This  consideration  may  serve  to  rectify  a 
mistaken  notion  to  be  found  even  among  some  devout 
persons  who,  while  esteeming  Joseph  to  have  been  a  very 
great  saint,  nevertheless  imagine  that  he  was  simple  and 
unlettered  and  endowed  with  but  a  slender  amount  of 
knowledge.  No;  Joseph  had  an  exalted  intellect,  his 
judgment  was  profound,  his  wisdom  surpassed  that  of 
the  wisest  among  men.  "  God,"  says  St.  Bernard,  "  had 
found  in  Joseph,  as  in  another  David,  a  man  after  His 
own  heart,  to  whom  He  could  securely  commit  His 
heart's  closest  and  most  sacred  secret ;  to  whom  He 
could  manifest  the  secret  and  hidden  things  of  His  wis- 
dom,1 and  communicate  that  great  mystery  which  none  of 
the  princes  of  this  world  knew."2  How,  indeed,  could  it 
be  otherwise  ?  For,  if  of  the  ancient  Joseph,  who  was  but 
the  figure  of  our  Joseph,  it  was  said  that  no  one  could  be 
found  like  to  him  or  wiser  than  he,3  what  must  be  said  of 
our  saint,  who  was  not  merely  endowed  with  wisdom  to 
interpret  dreams,  but  was  privileged  to  learn  the  secrets 
of  Heaven,  and  to  be  admitted  to  the  knowledge  of  the 
sublimest  truths,  revealed  to  him  by  angels,  nay,  taught 
him  by  the  Son  of  God  Himself  and  by  the  august  Queen 
of  all  the  Doctors  of  the  Church-? 

1  Psalm  1.  8.         2  Super  Missus  est.  Horn.  ii.3         3  Gen.  xij.  39. 



IF  Holy  Scripture  nowhere  expressly  speaks  of  the 
chastity  of  Joseph  previous  to  his  espousals  with 
Mary,  we  might  well  conclude  it  from  the  very  fact  of 
those  espousals.  We  judge  of  the  nature  of  a  tree  from 
the  fruit  which  it  produces ;  to  know,  then,  that  Joseph  was 
the  spouse  of  a  virgin  and  of  a  Virgin-Mother  such  as  Mary, 
was  quite  sufficient  to  persuade  the  great  body  of  the 
Fathers  to  hold  with  security  that  Joseph  was  a  virgin 
by  his  own  election  before  he  was  chosen  to  be  the 
husband  of  Mary.  A  few,  it  is  true,  too  easily  crediting 
the  baseless  statements  of  some  of  the  Apocryphal  books, 
which  asserted  that  those  who  in  the  Gospel  are  called  the 
brethren  and  sisters  of  Jesus  were  children  of  St.  Joseph 
by  a  previous  marriage,  were  led  to  withhold  from  him 
the  gift  and  glory  of  perpetual  virginity.  But  the  great 
majority,  and  those  of  the  highest  authority,  freely 
recognised  this  grace  among  those  which  enriched  and 
adorned  the  spouse  of  the  Blessed  Virgin.  As  early, 
indeed,  as  the  third  century  St.  Athanasius  spoke  these 
short  but  weighty  words  of  Joseph  and  Mary  :  that 
"  both  remained  intact,  as  was  proved  by  many  testi- 
monies " ; l  and  after  him  St.  Jerome,  defending  the 
perpetual  virginity  of  Mary  against  the  heretic  Helvidius, 
maintained  that,  not  only  Mary,  but  her  spouse  Joseph 
was  ever  a  virgin,  so  that  of  this  virginal  marriage  a 
virginal  Son  should  be  born.  Hence  St.  Peter  Damian 

1  De  Incarnatione. 

90  ST.    JOSEPH. 

asserts,  in  a  letter  to  Pope  Nicolas,  and  also  in  his  work 
on  the  celibacy  of  the  clergy,  that  such  was  the  faith  of 
the  Church  on  this  point ;  for  that  the  Son  of  God,  not 
content  with  having  a  virgin  for  His  mother,  willed  that 
he  who  represented  His  Father  should  also  be  a  virgin  ; l 
where  we  shall  do  well  to  observe  that  this  great  doctor 
does  not  hesitate  to  qualify  this  belief  as  the  '"  faith  of 
the  Church". 

The  Angelic  Doctor,  St.  Thomas,  enquiring  how  the 
most  holy  Virgin  could  give  her  hand  as  spouse  to  St. 
Joseph,  seeing  that  she  had  made  a  vow  of  virginity, 
replies  that  the  Blessed  Virgin,  before  contracting  es- 
pousals with  St.  Joseph,  was  certified  by  God  that  he  had 
himself  formed  the  same  resolve  of  preserving  perpetual 
virginity,  and  therefore  that  she  exposed  herself  to  no 
peril  by  her  union  with  him.2  Further,  we  find  St. 
Francis  de  Sales,  a  most  devout  client  of  St.  Joseph, 
strenuously  maintaining  his  virginity  and  his  vow.  "  How 
exalted  in  this  virtue  of  virginity  must  he  have  been,  who 
was  destined  by  the  Eternal  Father  to  be  the  guardian 
or,  rather,  the  companion  in  virginity  of  Mary  herself  ! 
Both  had  made  a  vow  to  preserve  virginity  for  their 
entire  lives,  and  it  was  the  will  of  God  to  join  them  in 
the  bond  of  a  holy  marriage,  not  in  any  way  to  recall 
their  vow,  but  rather  to  confirm  it,  and  that  they  might 
strengthen  each  other  to  persevere  in  their  holy  resolu- 

From  all  these  authorities  it  is  clear  that  Joseph  pre- 
served through  his  whole  life,  and' that  by  vow,  the  most 
angelic  purity  and  virginity.  Hence  the  Bollandists 
assert  that  the  whole  Latin  Church,  after  St.  Jerome, 
has  ever  held  that  Joseph  lived  and  died  a  virgin. 

The  holy  Doctors  allege,  moreover,  other  reasons,  of  a 
mystical  order,  to  prove  its  essential  propriety.  It  is  a 

1  De  Ccdib.  Sacerd.  cap.  iii.  2  In  Qucest.  Sent.  q.  xi.  a.  1. 

3  Entrclien,  xix. 


•well-known  saying  of  St.  Gregory  Nazianzen  that  the 
first  virgin  is  the  August  Trinity.  The  Father  is  a 
virgin,  who  generates  the  Son  in  His  eternal  splendours  ; 
the  Son  is  a  virgin,  who  is  generated  by  the  Father 
without  a  mother ;  the  Holy  Spirit  is  a  virgin,  who 
proceeds  eternally  from  the  Father  and  the  Son.  After 
the  image  of  this  August  Trinity  the  saints  recognise  a 
second  Trinity  on  earth  ;  of  which  the  pious  and  learned 
Gerson  said,  "  Would  that  I  had  suitable  words  to  explain 
this  most  admirable  and  venerable  Trinity,  Jesus,  Mary, 
and  Joseph  !  "*  Now,  as  the  August  Trinity  in  Heaven 
is  the  first  and  the  altogether  virgin,  so  also  must  the 
second  Trinity  on  earth  be  altogether  virgin.  If  Jesus 
is  a  virgin  and  Mary  is  a  virgin,  how  should  not  Joseph, 
who  completes  this  most  virginal  Trinity,  be  a  virgin 
also  ?  Jesus  is  the  Head  of  virgins,  Mary  is  the  mother 
of  virgins,  Joseph  is  the  guardian  and  patron  of  virgins. 

That  this  glory  belongs  to  Joseph  may  be  seen  still 
more  clearly  when  we  consider  that  he  belongs  to  the 
order  of  the  Hypostatic  Union,  in  which,  along  with 
Jesus  and  Mary,  prototypes  of  virginity,  no  one,  assur- 
edly, could  be  found  who  was  not  a  spotless  virgin. 
Hence  Suarez  says  that  Joseph  shone  so  much  the  more 
in  every  virtue,  especially  in  that  of  virginity,  above  all 
the  other  saints,  inasmuch  as  he  belonged  to  an  order 
superior  to  that  of  all  the  other  saints.  It  was  fitting, 
therefore,  that  he  who  was  immediately  associated  with 
the  Most  Sacred  Humanity  of  Jesus  should  be  altogether 
a  virgin  ;  otherwise  he  would  be  inferior  to  those  saints 
who  were  ordained  to  a  less  intimate  association  with 
Jesus,  as  St.  John  the  Baptist  and  St.  John  the  Evange- 
list, and  who,  nevertheless,  preserved  perpetual  virginity. 
And  how  could  Joseph,  who  excelled  in  all  virtues,  fail 
of  possessing  this  peerless  gem,  which  was  possessed  by 
other  saints  far  beneath  him  ? 

1  Serm.  de  Nativ.  B,  Marice  Virg.  Consid.  iv. 

92  ST.    JOSEPH. 

But  more  than  this.  Joseph,  according  to  the  opinion 
of  St.  Peter  Chrysologus  and  of  all  other  Doctors,  was 
destined  to  occupy  on  earth  the  place  of  the  Eternal 
Father,  and  to  represent  Him  in  relation  to  His  Divine 
Son.  Now,  perpetual  virginity  shines  among  the  attri- 
butes of  the  Divine  Paternity  ;  wherefore  Joseph,  the 
representative  on  earth  of  the  Divine  Paternity,  must 
needs,  next  to  Mary,  possess  the  beautiful  virtue  of 
virginity  in  the  highest  degree. 

And  are  not  the  angels,  to  whom  is  committed  the  care 
of  the  world  and  the  guardianship  of  men,  pre-eminently 
virgins  ?  Should  not  Joseph,  then,  to  whom  was  com- 
mitted the  care  and  custody  of  Jesus  and  Mary,  far  excel 
the  angels  themselves  in  virginity  ?  "  And  truly,"  says 
Isolano,  "  the  virginity  of  Joseph  was  more  noble,  more 
acceptable,  more  profitable,  more  admirable,  more  perfect 
than  that  of  the  angels.  More  noble,  because  that  of  the 
angels  is  from  nature,  that  of  Joseph  was  from  grace ; 
more  acceptable,  because  that  of  the  angels  is  necessary, 
that  of  Joseph  was  voluntary ;  more  profitable,  because 
that  of  the  angels  is  not  meritorious,  that  of  Joseph  had 
high  merit  in  the  sight  of  God  ;  more  admirable,  because 
that  of  the  angels  is  in  an  impassible  nature,  that  of 
Joseph  was  in  passible  and  mortal  flesh ;  more  perfect, 
because  that  of  the  angels  is  only  in  the  spirit,  that  of 
Joseph  was  in  soul  and  body.  Whence  with  justice  does 
A  Lapide  write  of  Joseph  that  as  regards  this  virtue  he 
might  be  called  an  angel  rather  than  a  man."1 

Joseph,  then,  was  the  first  among  men,  as  Mary  was 
the  first  among  women,  to  make  a  deliberate  vow  of 
perpetual  virginity,  notwithstanding  the  contrary  pre- 
vailing custom  ;  so  that  he  may  with  reason  be  styled 
the  Primate  and  Patriarch  of  all  the  religious  and 
cloistered  orders,  who  consecrate  themselves  to  God  by 
a  vow  of  perpetual  virginity,  as  having  led  the  way  in 

1  DC  Donis  St.  Joseph,  p.  i.  c.  xiii. 

HIS    VOW    OF    VIRGINITY.  93 

embracing  this  first  of  the  Evangelical  counsels.  And  this 
determination  on  his  part  was  so  much  the  more  heroic  in 
that  it  was  the  earliest  example  of  the  kind,  and  appeared, 
not  only  opposed  to  the  practice  of  the  people  of  God,  but 
contrary  to  the  scope  and  strict  intention  of  the  Law. 

Whence,  then,  it  may  be  asked,  did  Joseph  derive  this 
love  of  virginity,  a  state  not  encouraged  by  the  ancient 
Law  ?  It  can  hardly  have  had  other  source  than  a  divine 
impression,  produced  in  his  soul  by  grace,  of  the  ex- 
cellence of  this  virtue,  joined  to  a  profound  humility. 
For  let  us  consider  that  St.  Joseph  must  have  conceived 
this  design  at  the  time  when,  the  sceptre  having  departed 
from  Juda,  his  nation  had  entered  into  new  conditions,  by 
being  formally  placed  under  the  dominion  of  a  foreign  king; 
at  a  period,  therefore,  when  the  promises  made  by  God 
to  his  house  might  be  deemed  near  their  accomplishment, 
and  when,  possibly,  he  himself,  as  being  of  the  house  and 
family  of  David,  might  be  chosen  by  God.  to  bear  a  part 
in  the  looked-for  redemption  of  Israel.  Hence  we  may 
perceive  how  solidly  Joseph's  virtue  must  have  been  based 
upon  humility  for  him  to  esteem  himself  quite  unworthy 
of  having  any  share  in  an  honour  which  for  generations 
had  been  so  coveted  by  his  people.  He  resolved  to  re- 
main chaste  in  the  midst  of  the  world,  and  thus  excluded 
himself  from  the  road  to  all  human  greatness  and  glory. 

Let  us,  then,  with  all  our  heart  congratulate  the 
Patriarch  of  virgins,  St.  Joseph,  on  this  his  high  pre- 
rogative. Let  us  rejoice  with  him  for  this  most  sublime 
gift,  which  God  bestowed  upon  him  that  he  might  be 
a  worthy  companion  of  the  Queen  of  Virgins,  Mary.  Let 
us  earnestly  beseech  him  to  obtain  for  us  from  God  the 
grace  to  be  able,  after  his  example,  to  lead  pure  and 
stainless  lives  on  earth,  that  we  may  one  day  be  with  him 
in  Heaven  beholding  the  Face  of  God ;  for,  as  Christ  has 
told  us,  it  is  only  the  clean  of  heart  who  shall  see  God.1 
1  St.  Matthew  v.  8. 


GOD  Himself,  in  the  Holy  Gospel,  pronounces  the 
encomium  of  St.  Joseph  by  calling  him  "  just  "-1  And 
the  great  doctor,  St.  Jerome,  thus  expounds  the  term  : 
"Joseph  is  called  just  on  account  of  having  possessed  all 
virtues  in  a  perfect  degree  ".  The  word  justice,  in  fact, 
comprehends  every  virtue,  inasmuch  as  it  leads  man  to 
render  to  each  his  due :  to  God,  to  his  neighbours,  and 
to  himself ;  and  when  this  debt  is  faithfully  discharged, 
what  else  is  wanting  to  true  perfection  ? 

Joseph  rendered  to  God  His  due  by  the  constant  exer- 
cise of  the  three  theological  virtues,  walking  ever  with 
the  liveliest  faith  in  the  presence  of  God,  with  firm  and 
stable  hope  expecting  the  near  advent  of  the  Messias,  and 
with  ardent  charity  loving  without  measure  the  sovereign 
goodness  of  God,  and  striving  to  the  utmost  of  his  power 
to  make  Him  loved  by  others.  He  rendered  faithfully  to 
God  His  due  by  practising  all  the  duties  of  religion,  con- 
tinually praising  Him,  making  Him  oblations  and  sacri- 
fices, sanctifying  all  His  feasts,  reverencing  His  Temple,  . 
honouring  His  priests.  In  one  word,  he  gave  himself 
wholly  to  God,  and  for  His  glory  he  would  willingly  have 
shed  his  blood. 

To  men  he  rendered  their  due  by  respecting  them  in 
their  property,  their  honour,  and  their  life.     He  loved 
them  tenderly,  was  solicitous  to  assist  them,  and  zeal- 
ously edified  them  by  his  example.     Compassion  for  the 
1  St.  Matthew  i.  19. 

A   JUST   MAN.  95 

suffering  was,  as  it  may  be  called,  an  integral  portion  of  his 
being.  Like  Job,  he  might  have  said,  "  From  my  infancy 
mercy  grew  up  with  me  "-1  This  was  a  gift  specially  in- 
fused into  his  soul  by  God  in  order  that,  as  he  was  to  be 
the  patron  of  the  afflicted,  his  heart  should  melt  at  once 
at  the  sight  of  misery  and  be  moved  to  give  instant 

Finally,  Joseph  rendered  to  himself  what  was  his  due : 
as  respected  his  soul,  treasuring  up  in  it  all  the  virtues, 
all  the  merits,  all  the  sound  doctrine,  and  all  the  holy 
operations  necessary  to  salvation  ;  as  regarded  his  body, 
procuring  for  it  the  fitting  means  for  leading  an  honour- 
able life,  even  to  the  acquiring  a  handicraft  which  might 
keep  him  holily  employed  and  minister  to  his  temporal 

Thus  abundantly  furnished  with  divine  grace,  Joseph 
had  entered  on  the  perfect  possession  of  all  virtues.  He 
is,  therefore,  with  full  reason  styled  "  just  "  in  the  Holy 
Gospel,  and  this,  not  merely  to  distinguish  him  from 
other  saints,  as  St.  James  the  Less  and  Joseph  called 
Barsabas  were  styled  just,  but  as  being  in  reality  per- 
fectly just ;  just,  not  in  an  ordinary  and  common  manner, 
but  singularly  and  supereminently  just.  We  have  here 
no  slight  indication  of  his  sublime  sanctity ;  for  while  the 
people  of  God  were  expecting  with  earnest  longing  the 
Just  One  by  excellence,  that  is,  the  Messias,  and  were 
daily,  in  the  words  of  the  Prophet,  praying  that  the 
clouds  would  rain  down  the  Just,2  behold,  before  the  time, 
there  appears  on  earth  one  who  is  perfectly  just.  One 
who  is  just  by  grace  precedes  Him  who  is  just  by 
nature.  Joseph,  adorned  with  all  justice,  comes  to  figure 
and  announce  Jesus,  who  is  called,  and  is  in  fact,  "the 
Lord,  our  Just  One  ".8  Jesus,  who  is  the  Sun  of  Justice, 
sends  before  Him  this  star  of  justice,  Joseph,  who  may 
thus  be  styled  and  is  in  fact,  after  Mary,  the  first  just  one 
1  Job  xxxi.  18.  2  Isaias  xlv.  8.  3  Jereraias  xxiii.  6. 

96  ST.    JOSEPH. 

of  the  New  Law ;  the  first  justified  and  sanctified  by  the 
grace  of  the  Eedeemer  Christ ;  the  first  just  one  canonised 
expressly  in  the  Gospel  by  the  Holy  Spirit ;  first,  not 
merely  in  the  order  of  time  but  in  that  of  excellence,  per- 
fection, and  dignity,  always  excepting  the  Most  Blessed 

We  have  noticed  how  Joseph,  to  avoid  idleness  and 
procure  an  honourable  livelihood,  practised  a  trade. 
Although  the  family  of  Joseph  had  long  been  shorn  of  its 
ancestral  splendour  and  reduced  to  a  humble  state  of  life, 
we  must  not  suppose  that  they  were  so  far  impoverished 
as  even  to  be  obliged  at  times  to  ask  alms,  which  some 
have  thought,  grounding  their  supposition  chiefly  on  the 
necessity  in  which,  they  say,  Joseph  found  himself  to 
practise  a  mechanical  trade,  and  on  the  contempt  in 
which  he  was  on  this  account,  according  to  them,  held 
by  his  countrymen.  To  refute  such  exaggerations  it  is 
sufficient  to  refer  to  other  special  circumstances  in 
Joseph's  life,  and  to  recollect  the  customs  of  his  nation. 

Joseph,  indeed,  was  poor,  but  he  was  not  a  beggar; 
neither,  because  he  worked  at  a  trade  which  implied 
manual  labour,  need  his  state  in  life  be  regarded  either 
as  mean  or  contemptible.  With  the  Hebrews,  who  still 
retained  many  of  the  simple  and  primitive  customs  of  the 
Patriarchs,  the  profession  of  an  artisan,  if  not  noble  or 
distinguished,  was  yet  far  from  being  esteemed  as  the 
lowest.  The  arts  were  respected  as  useful  to  society; 
and  a  good  artificer  was  preferred  to  the  richest  mer- 
chant. Moreover,  every  father  of  a  family  was  bound  by 
the  law  to  make  his  children  learn  some  trade,  even  if 
they  did  not  require  to  practise  it,  in  order  that  they 
might  not  take  to  dishonest  practices  or  become  a  burden 
to  others.  Accordingly,  we  find  that  St.  Paul,  born  in 
possession  of  the  freedom  of  a  Eoman  citizen  and  a 
learned  doctor  in  the  law,  which  he  had  studied  at  the 
feet  of  Gamaliel,  had  been  taught  the  art  of  tent-making, 


which  he  afterwards  practised  when  an  Apostle,1  that  he 
might  be  a  charge  to  no  man. 

As  for  the  supposed  contempt  implied  in  the  language 
of  his  countrymen  mentioned  by  St.  Mark  and  St. 
Matthew,  such  is  not  its  real  or  natural  meaning.  In 
St.  Mark's  Gospel  we  read :  "  And  going  out  from  thence, 
He  went  into  His  own  country ;  and  His  disciples  fol- 
lowed Him.  And  when  the  Sabbath  was  come,  He 
began  to  teach  in  the  synagogue ;  and  many,  hearing 
Him,  were  in  admiration  at  His  doctrine,  saying,  '  How 
came  this  man  by  all  these  things  ?  and  what  wisdom  is 
this  that  is  given  to  Him ;  and  such  mighty  works  as  are 
wrought  by  His  hands  ?  Is  not  this  the  carpenter,  the 
son  of  Mary,  the  brother  of  James,  and  Joseph,  and  Jude, 
and  Simon  ?  are  not  also  His  sisters  with  us  ? '  And  they 
were  scandalised  in  regard  of  Him."2  These  words  of 
the  men  of  Nazareth  seem  to  manifest  astonishment 
rather  than  contempt,  an  astonishment,  however,  mingled 
with  jealousy.  They  had  not  seen  Him  frequenting  the 
schools ;  He  was  known  to  them  as  a  carpenter  and  the 
son  of  a  carpenter ;  and  as,  on  the  one  hand,  they  were 
filled  with  wonder  at  the  wisdom  and  learning  He  dis- 
played and  the  miracles  He  wrought,  so,  on  the  other, 
they  were  offended  at  the  authority  with  which  He 
spoke ;  for,  as  it  is  said  elsewhere,8  He  taught  as  one 
having  power,  and  not  as  the  Scribes  and  Pharisees. 
Their  words  and  conduct  implied  nothing  of  contempt  in 
regard  either  to  His  station  in  life  or  His  occupation. 

But,  further,  the  employment  which  Joseph  adopted 
was  one  that  our  Divine  Master  Himself  did  not  disdain 
to  practise  in  His  youth,  that  He  might  set  us  an 
example  of  humility  and  laborious  industry.  Nay,  He 
had  already  prepared  in  His  reputed  father  an  example 

1  Acts  xviii.  3  ;  1  Thess.  ii.  9  ;  2  Thess.  iii.  8. 

2  St.  Mark  vi.  2,  3  ;  conf.  St.  Matthew,  xiii.  54-57. 

3  St.  Matthew  xii.  29  ;  St.  Mark  i.  22 ;  conf.  St.  John  vii.  15. 


98  ST.    JOSEPH. 

which  He  Himself  tacitly  followed.  For,  admitting  even 
the  exigencies  of  his  condition,  we  have  every  right  to 
believe  that  Joseph  gave  himself  to  this  avocation  from 
his  esteem  and  love  for  labour,  and,  what  is  higher  still, 
a  predilection  for  poverty.  Every  man  is  bound  to 
employ  profitably  the  gifts  he  has  received  from  God, 
whether  spiritual  or  corporal,  each  according  to  his  state 
of  life.  God,  as  we  read  in  the  Holy  Scripture,  placed 
Adam,  as  yet  innocent,  in  the  terrestrial  paradise  in  order 
to  keep  and  dress  it ;  and  Joseph,  instructed  in  this  school, 
although  sprung  from  a  race  of  kings,  not  only  was  not 
ashamed  to  appear  poor,  but  led  from  his  tenderest 
years,  as  we  have  reason  to  conclude,  a  life  of  toil,  thus 
avoiding  idleness  and  that  which  is  often  its  companion, 
dissipation,  and  the  vices  flowing  therefrom.  Many  at  all 
times  have  like  him  fallen  into  poverty  and  sunk  to  a  low 
estate,  but  few  know  how  to  value  it.  Constrained  to 
exercise  a  toilsome  and  servile  art,  few  are  they  who 
know  how  to  raise  themselves  to  the  consideration  that 
what  has  become  a  necessity  of  nature  to  man  ever  since 
the  fall  may  also  be  at  the  same  time  a  heavenly  boon  ; 
whatever  art  or  profession  they  follow  becoming  thus  in 
their  hands  a  means  calculated  to  promote  their  sanctifi- 
cation.  But,  if  there  are  few  comparatively  now  who 
know  how  rightly  to  value  poverty,  and,  if  in  Israel  under 
the  Old  Law  such  value  was  almost  unknown,  it  was  a 
perfection  of  St,  Joseph,  a  perfection  which  was  his  many 
years  before  the  Type  of  all  perfection  had  appeared 
among  men,  before  the  Incarnate  Wisdom  had  opened 
His  mouth  to  announce  to  the  world  that  consoling 
truth  :  "  Blessed  are  the  poor  in  spirit,  for  theirs  is  the 
kingdom  of  Heaven  ". l 

The  merit  of  Joseph,  then,  did  not  consist  in  his  having 
been  born  poor  and  living  a  life  of  poverty,  neither  was 
it  on  this  account  that  God  chose  him  for  His  represen- 
1  St.  Matthew  v.  3. 


tative  in  the  house  of  His  Son  on  earth,  but  because  he 
willed  and  loved  to  be  poor,  seeing  that  God  Himself  so 
willed  and  disposed  it.  He  was  inwardly  sensible  of  the 
perfection  which  lay  in  embracing  a  life  of  poverty,  even 
as  if  he  had  a  prescience  that  the  moment  was  at  hand 
when  voluntary  poverty  would  become  one  of  the  most 
splendid  ornaments  with  which  a  creature  could  deck  it- 
self in  the  eyes  of  its  Creator ;  a  conviction  quite  opposed 
to  that  of  the  world  of  his  day,  not  excepting  the  wise 
according  to  the  flesh  even  in  his  very  fatherland.  The 
poverty,  therefore,  which  was  his  by  inheritance,  he  also 
chose  for  his  portion  on  earth ;.  so  that  he  who  was  first 
poor  by  necessity  became  afterwards  poor  by  election, 
because  he  was  truly  poor  in  spirit,  and  hence  was*  a 
worthy  instrument  in  God's  hands  for  the  execution  of 
His  designs  regarding  him. 

Joseph,  then,  laboured  with  his  hands,  but  what  was 
his  precise  occupation  ?  The  word  which  we  translate 
carpenter  is  in  the  original  one  of  general  import,  and 
may  be  applied  to  a  workman  in  any  material,  whether 
wood,  iron,  stone,  or  even  in  the  precious  metals.  Ac- 
cordingly, there  have  been  interpreters  who  maintained 
that  Joseph  worked  in  iron.  St.  Hilarion,  adopting  this 
view,  says  in  reference  to  Jesus  :  "  He  was  son  of  the 
smith  who  subdues  iron  with. fire  ".*  Others  would  have 
him  to  have  been  a  builder  or  an  architect ;  holding  that, 
even  as  Jesus  by  eternal  generation  was  the  Son  of  the 
Eternal  Artificer  who  formed  the  whole  material  uni- 
verse, so  also  in  His  temporal  generation  He  was  believed 
and  reputed  to  be  the  son  of  a  builder.2  Others,  again, 
have  even  advanced  the  opinion  that  Joseph  worked  in 
silver  and  gold.  But  that  which  is  now  the  commonly 
received  belief,  being  grounded  upon  the  best  certified 
tradition,  is  that  Joseph  worked  in  wood ;  that  he  was, 

1  In  Matihceum,  cap.  six. 
2  S.  August.,  Scrm.  i.  Dom.  infr.  Oct.  Epiph. 

100  •  ST.    JOSEPH. 

in  fact,  a  carpenter,  although  he  may  have  understood 
and  occasionally  employed  himself  in  work  of  another 

The  testimony  of  St.  Justin  Martyr,  who  lived  in  the 
middle  of  the  second  century,  and  must  therefore  have 
known  persons  who  had  conversed  with  the  Apostles,  is  of 
great  weight.  In  his  celebrated  Dialogue  with  the  Jew, 
Tryphon,  he  says,  "  Jesus  came  to  John,  being  reputed 
the  son  of  Joseph,  the  carpenter,  or  worker  in  wood,  and 
He  Himself  was  reckoned  to  be  a  carpenter ;  for  while 
He  dwelt  amongst  men  He  had  performed  carpenter's 
work,  making  ploughs  and  yokes,  teaching  us  thus  to 
lead  just  lives  free  from  idleness  ".  Ancient,  pictures, 
representing^  the  saint  with  the  instruments  of  a  carpenter, 
confirm  this  testimony  of  St.  Justin,  as  also  of  other 
early  ecclesiastical  writers.  That  such  was  the  common 
opinion  of  the  first  centuries  is  also  incidentally  proved  by 
the  famous  answer  which  a  Christian  schoolmaster  in 
Antioch  gave  to  the  sophist  Libanius  respecting  the 
Emperor  Julian  the  Apostate,  who  at  that  time  was 
fighting  against  the  Parthians.  Libanius,  having  asked 
him  what  the  son  of  the  carpenter  was  doing  now,  he, 
speaking,  as  was  believed,  by  a  divine  movement, 
promptly  responded,  "  He  is  working  at  Julian's  bier  "  ; 
in  which  he  proved  to  be  no  false  prophet,  for  soon  after 
news  came  that  Julian  had  fallen  mortally  wounded  in 
battle.  We  have  another  proof  of  the  general  belief  of 
primitive  times  in  a  remark  of  St.  John  Chrysostom, 
when,  expounding  St.  Matthew's  Gospel,  he  says, 
"  Therefore  was  Mary  espoused  to  a  carpenter,  because 
Jesus,  the  Spouse  of  the  Church,  was  to  work  the  salva- 
tion of  the  world  by  the  wood  of  the  Cross  ".  Such  was 
also  the  decided  opinion  of  St.  Thomas  Aquinas,  who 
with  reference  to  the  words  in  the  13th  chapter  of  St. 
Matthew,  "Is  not  this  the  son  of  the  carpenter?  "  makes 
this  comment  :  "Jesus  was  reputed  to  be  the  son  of 


Joseph,  who  was  not  a  forger  of  iron  but  a  worker  in 
wood  ".  More  proofs  from  other  holy  and  learned  writers, 
forming  a  catena  of  evidence  down  to  the  present  day, 
including  the  last  Doctor  of  the  Church,  St.  Francis  de 
Sales,  might  be  adduced,  but  the  opinion  of  the  great 
Angel  of  the  Schools  may  well  be  left  to  close  the  list. 
The  opinion  expressed  by  St.  Ambrose  that  Joseph  was 
expert  in  iron- work,  as  well  as  in  what  more  immediately 
belonged  to  a  carpenter's  trade,  may  suggest  an  explana- 
tion of  all  apparent  discrepancies  with  regard  to  his 

For  this  reason  the  holy  Evangelists  may  have  been 
inspired  to  call  Joseph's  occupation  by  a  comprehensive 
term,  in  order  that  all  artisans,  whether  in  wood,  iron, 
metal,  marble,  stone,  or  in  the  precious  metals,  might 
recognise  in  him  their  special  patron,  and  deem  it  both  a 
duty  and  a  privilege  to  place  themselves  under  his  par- 
ticular protection.  Thus,  in  this  our  age,  when  the 
question  of  the  working  classes  is  so  prominently  before 
the  world,  and  certain  evil  teachers  are  abroad  who 
would  make  them  regard  their  condition  as  a  misfortune 
and  a  wrong,  and  urge  them  to  seek  redress  by  forcibly 
appropriating  the  goods  of  others,  it  has  pleased  God  to 
exhibit  Joseph  in  all  his  glory  as  the  most  sublime  model 
of  the  labouring  man,  so  that  all  may  turn  their  eyes 
upon  him,  learn  from  him  their  true  dignity  as  Christian 
artisans,  and,  faithfully  imitating  his  virtues,  find  under 
his  patronage  health  to  labour  and  needful  employment 
for  the  support  and  maintenance  of  their  families. 

Let  us  admire,  then,  the  profound  humility  of  St. 
Joseph,  who,  although  he  came  of  royal  blood,  preferred 
the  humble  and  laborious  occupation  of  a  carpenter  to 
any  other  profession  more  noble  and  agreeable,  in  order 
the  better  to  please  God  by  a  hidden  and  toilsome  life, 
and  avoid  those  perils  which  often  attend  a  more  elevated 
position  in  the  social  scale.  Joseph,  the  scion  of  kings, 

102  ST,   JOSEPH. 

from  voluntary  humility  condemned  his  hands,  worthy  of 
bearing  a  regal  sceptre,  to  wield  instead  the  hatchet  and 
the  hammer,  or,  rather,  he  consecrated  with  his  holy 
hands  all  the  instruments  of  labour,  teaching  clearly 
thereby  that  it  is  the  duty  of  all  who  in  this  transitory 
life  have  to  gain  their  daily  bread  by  the  sweat  of  their 
brow  to  regard  their  life  of  toil  as  providentially  assigned 
to  them,  in  the  mercy  of  God,  to  be  the  means  by  which 
they  may  work  out  their  eternal  salvation  and  secure  to 
themselves  an  exalted  position  in  the  court  of  Heaven. 



PEOVIDENCB,  which  guides  man  along  the  path  of 
virtue  to  the  fulfilment  of  his  vocation,  had  disposed 
that  the  very  resolution  which  Joseph  had  formed  in  the 
secret  of  his  heart,  and  had  long  maintained  with  perfect 
and  constant  self-abnegation — a  resolution  by  which  he 
believed  himself  to  renounce  all  participation .  in  the 
glories  promised  to  the  house  of  David,  and  to  make 
himself  a  stranger,  so  to  say,  to  that  event  which  was  to 
fill,  not  Israel  alone,  but  the  whole  universe  with  joy, — 
was  to  be  the  very  means  of  fitting  him  to  stand,  next  to 
Mary,  in  the  closest  relationship  to  the  Divine  Eedeemer 
of  mankind.  Several  writers  of  high  authority  are  of 
opinion  that  Joseph  went  to  practise  in  Jerusalem  the 
trade  which  he  had  learnt,  in  order  to  have  constant 
access  to  the  Temple  and  take  part  in  its  sacrifices. 
This  is  highly  credible,  and  pious  imaginations  have 
loved  to  dwell  upon  the  thought  that,  possibly,  he  may 
even  have  been  employed  in  some  portion  of  the  work 
which  Herod,  in  order  to  gratify  the  Jews  and  make 
himself  a  great  name,  had  undertaken,  namely,  the 
enlargement  and  decoration  of  their  Temple.  Joseph, 
who  was  so  well  acquainted  with  the  promises  of  God  to 
His  people,  must  have  known  how  the  prophets  Aggeus 
and  Malachi  had  foretold  that  the  glory  of  this  latter 
house  was  to  exceed  that  of  the  former,  f9r  the  Desired 
of  all  nations,  the  Lord  Himself,  was  to  honour  it  with 

104  ST.    JOSEPH. 

His  presence.1  To  take  any  share  and  contribute  in  any 
degree  towards  its  adornment,  and  thus  employ  his 
labour  and  skill  directly  for  the  greater  glory  of  God, 
would  have  been  a  privilege  most  dear  to  his  heart. 

That  he  did  so  is,  of  course,  matter  of  pure  conjecture; 
but  it  rises  above  the  rank  of  a  conjecture,  and  may  be 
considered  as  almost  certain  that  he  would  frequently 
see  his  holy  relatives,  Joachim  and  Anne,  when  they 
came  up  to  keep  the  great  feasts  at  Jerusalem ;  Anne,  as 
we  have  shown  on  good  authority,  being  probably  the 
sister  of  Jacob  and  therefore  Joseph's  aunt.  For  many 
years  their  marriage  had  remained  unblest  with  any 
offspring,  which  was,  as  we  know,  considered  by  the  Jews 
as  more  than  a  misfortune.  Elizabeth's  exclamation, 
"  Thus  hath  the  Lord  dealt  with  me  in  the  days  wherein 
He  hath  had  regard  to  take  away  my  reproach  among 
men,"2  would  be  sufficient  proof,  were  such  needed,  that 
this  was  the  general  feeling.  It  pleased  God  to  allow 
this  affliction  to  weigh  most  heavily  on  this  holy  couple. 
Tradition  tells  us  that  having  come  up  from  Nazareth, 
where  they  dwelt,  to  keep  the  feast  of  the  Dedication  of 
the  Temple,8  and  having  made  their  offering,  while  they 
were  kneeling  in  devout  prayer,  a  priest  named  Isaac,  or, 
according  to  others,  Isachar,  sternly  rebuked  St.  Joachim 
in  presence  of  all  the  worshippers,  for  daring  to  present 
himself  within  the  sacred  precints  when  the  curse  of  God 
rested  upon  him,  as  shown  in  the  sterility  of  bis  marriage. 
If  the  youthful  Joseph  was  present  on  this  occasion,  or, 
at  any  rate,  being  in  Jerusalem,  was  cognisant  of  the 
humiliation  of  which  his  pious  relatives  had  been  the 
object,  how  must  his  tender  heart  have  grieved,  and  how 

1  Aggeus  ii.  10 ;  Malachias  iii.  1.  2  St.  Luke  i.  25. 

3  The  Hebrews  kept  three  feasts  of  the  Dedication  of  the  Temple : 
the  first,  that  of  Solomon,  in  September ;  the  second,  that  of  Esdras 
and  Zorobabel,  in  February ;  the  third,  that  of  Judas  Machabeus,  on 
the  25th  of  November.  It  was  to  this  third  feast  that  Joachim  and 
Anne  had  come. 

BIRTH    OF    MARY.  105 

he  must  have  exerted  himself  to  raise  their  drooping 
spirits!  They  returned  to  the  mountains  of  Nazareth, 
but  not  without  having  both  of  them  been  favoured  with 
angelic  consolation  and  the  assurance  that  God  had  heard 
their  prayers  and  accepted  their  oblation.  Epiphanius 
tells  us  that  Joachim  was  praying  in  the  solitude  of  a 
mountain  and  Anne  retired  in  her  garden,  when  they  each 
of  them  separately  received  this  divine  favour.  Joachim 
and  Anne,  says  the  historian  Ludolphus,  in  his  Life  of 
Jesus  Christ,  having  for  twenty  years  been  without  off- 
spring, had  both  of  them  promised,  if  their  prayer  was 
heard,  to  dedicate  the  child  which  should  be  granted  them 
to  God. 

And  behold,  Anne,  miraculously  healed  of  her  sterility, 
conceived  in  her  womb  her  who  was  to  be  the  delight, 
the  life,  and  the  joy  of  the  whole  world.  Here  was  the 
commencement  of  a  series  of  unprecedented  prodigies. 
As  this  infant  was  to  be  the  daughter  of  the  Eternal 
Father,  mother  of  the  Divine  Son,  and  spouse  of  the 
Holy  Ghost,  so  her  beautiful  soul  from  the  first  instant  of 
its  creation  and  infusion  into  the  body  was,  through  the 
especial  grace  and  privilege  of  God,  and  in  regard  of  the 
merits  of  Jesus  Christ  His  Son  and  the  Eedeemer  of 
mankind,  to  be  preserved  free  from  all  stain  of  original 
sin,  and  filled  with  every  grace,  gift,  and  perfection  of 
which  a  human  creature  is  capable. 

The  Virgin  was  born  at  Nazareth  on  the  8th  of  Sep- 
tember, in  the  year  of  the  world,  as  is  supposed,  3986, 
and  her  happy  nativity  was  the  harbinger  of  joy  to  the 
whole  universe.  Her  name,  we  cannot  doubt,  came  from 
Heaven,  and  was  revealed  to  Joachim,  who  gave  it  to 
her  on  the  eighth  day  after  her  birth.  "  O  name,"  ex- 
claims that  devout  adorer  of  the  Infant  Jesus,  St.  An- 
thony of  Padua,  "joy  to  the  heart,  honey  in  the  mouth, 
sweetest  music  to  the  ear  I"1  And  St.  John  Damasus  : 
1  Sermo  iii.  Dom.  Quadrag. 

106  ST.    JOSEPH. 

"  O  happy  couple,  Joachim  and  Anne,  what  a  debt  of 
gratitude  is  due  to  you  from  every  creature!"1  On  the 
eighth  day  after  her  delivery,  Anne,  accompanied  by  her 
holy  spouse,  must  have  borne  in  her  arms  this  most  lovely 
babe  to  offer  her  to  the  Lord  in  the  Temple,  and  perform, 
according  to  the  law,  the  rite  of  her  own  purification. 
Scripture  gives  us  no  record  of  this  act,  but  the  devout 
mind  loves  to  dwell  upon  it.  For  never  before  that  day 
had  so  acceptable  or  pleasing  an  offering  been  made  to 
the  Most  High.  That  sweet  infant,  but  a  few  days  old, 
was  burning  with  the  desire  to  consecrate  herself  entirely 
to  God,  that  God  whom  she  already  knew  so  clearly  and 
loved  so  ardently.  For  even  in  her  mother's  womb  Mary 
enjoyed  the  use  of  reason  and  of  her  free  will.2  How 
could  it  be  otherwise,  since  to  John  the  Baptist  this 
privilege  was  conceded,  before  he  saw  the  light,  in  the 
sixth  month  of  his  existence  ?  Her  holy  parents  on  their 
part,  no  doubt,  renewed  their  promised  consecration  of 
the  child  which  had  been  so  miraculously  given  to  them. 
According  to  a  pious  tradition,  Anne  possessed  a  flock  on 
Mount  Carmel  and  a  house  for  its  shepherds ;  and  hither 
she  and  Joachim  would  often  resort  with  their  spotless 
infant.  We  can  readily  believe  that  it  was  here,  on  those 
heights  of  immemorial  sanctity,  that  she,  sweet  child, 
who  was  one  day  to  be  invoked  as  Our  Lady  of  Mount 
Carmel,  besought  her  parents  to  fulfil  their  vow  and  allow 
her  to  go  and  enclose  herself  with  other  daughters  of 
Sion  in  the  House  of  the  Lord. 

It  must  have  been  a  very  painful  sacrifice  to  this  holy 
couple  to  part  with  their  incomparable  child,  the  joy  and 
treasure  of  their  life,  but  they  loved  God  too  much  to  re- 
fuse Him  what  He  asked  and  what  they  had  promised  to 
Him.  That  the  Virgin  was  three  years  old  when  she 
was  presented  in  the  Temple  and  devoted  to  the  service 

1  Orat.  i.  de  Nativ.  B.  Marias,  Virginis. 
2  St.  Bernardine,  Serm.  li.  ;  Suarez,  p.  iii.  disp.  iv.  sect.  v. 


of  God  is  clear  from  the  testimony  of  St.  Evodius,  suc- 
cessor of  St.  Peter  in  Antioch,  as  well  as  from  that  of 
St.  Epiphanius,  St.  Jerome,  St.  Gregory  Nazianzen,  St. 
Basil,  and  many  others.  There  is,  in  fact,  a  whole 
catena  of  tradition  on  the  subject.  It  was  in  the  month 
of  November,  when  the  Hebrews  celebrate  the  solemn 
dedication  of  the  Temple,  that  Joachim  and  Anne  brought 
the  infant  Mary  to  give  her  to  God.  Without  objecting 
her  tender  age,  or  pleading  for  delay,  they  had  at  once 
acceded  to  the  holy  desire  of  their  most  innocent  child. 
The  sacrifice  was  willed  by  God,  was  pleasing  to  God : 
that  was  enough  to  cause  them  to  bow  their  heads,  and 
make  the  offering  with  all  readiness  of  heart.  What  a 
beautiful  example  does  Mary  here  present  to  the  young, 
to  follow  without  hesitation  the  voice  of  God  calling  them 
to  a  perfect  life  in  the  solitude  of  a  cloister,  without 
heeding  for  a  moment  the  flattering  allurements  of  the 
world;  and  what  a  splendid  example  do  Joachim  and 
Anne  also  offer  to  parents,  not  to  oppose  the  religious 
vocation  of  their  children,  but  to  give  them  willingly  to 
God,  when  it  pleases  Him  to  call  them ! 

The  presentation  of  Mary  in  the  Temple  is  believed  to 
have  taken  place  in  the  year  of  the  world  3989,  and  on 
the  21st  of  November,  the  day  on  which  the  Church  cele- 
brates the  feast.  The  enclosure  in  which  these  young 
maidens  had  their  abode  was  beside  the  Temple ;  that  it 
was  also  attached  to  it  we  may  gather  from  the  Second 
Book  of  Machabees,  chap.  iii.  v.  39,  where  it  is  said  that 
the  young  virgins  ran  in  consternation  to  Onias  when 
they  beheld  Eliodorus  rifling  the  sacred  building.  In 
memory  of  the  abode  of  Mary  in  the  Temple,  the  Em- 
peror Justinian  I.  erected  in  the  sixth  century,  on  its 
southern  side,  a  church  which  was  called  the  Church  of 
the  Presentation. 




MAEY  passed  eleven  years  in  the  sacred  retirement  of 
the  Temple,  that  she  might,  although  all  unknown 
to  herself,  acquire  the  necessary  dispositions  and  have  a 
fitting  preparation  to  become  the  Mother  of  God,  even  as 
Joseph  hid  himself  in  the  obscurity  of  a  poor  workshop 
to  practise  for  many  years  the  most  excellent  and  most 
heroic  virtues,  that  he  might  become  like  to  Mary  and 
worthy  to  be  her  spouse.  Here,  inwardly  illuminated 
and  guided  by  the  Spirit  of  God,  far  more  than  by  the 
instructions  of  her  teachers,  Mary  rose  to  the  loftiest 
height  of  perfection  which  a  human  creature  can  attain. 
Here,  as  Joseph  had  also  done,  sh.e  consecrated  her 
virginity  to  God  by  a  perpetual  vow,  conditional,  how- 
ever, on  His  good  pleasure.1  Hence,  in  accordance  with 
the  testimony  of  the  ancient  Fathers,  the  Angelic  Doctor 
says  that  the  Blessed  Virgin  stood,  as  it  were,  on  the 
confines  between  the  Old  and  the  New  Law  ;  so  that  her 
vow  was  akin  to  the  New  Law  in  that  it  was  a  consecra- 
tion of  her  virginity  to  God,  and  it  savoured  of  the  Old 
Law  in  that  it  was  made  conditionally.  To  make  an 
absolute  vow  of  perpetual  virginity  would  have  been,  so 
to  say,  to  go  beyond  the  spirit  of  the  Mosaic  Law,  which 
favoured,  if  it  did  not  prescribe,  matrimony ;  wherefore 
St.  Bernard,  speaking  of  Mary's  vow,  says  that  in  mak- 

1  St.  Thomas,  Summa,  p.  ill.  q.  xxviii.  a.  4. 


ing  it  she  transcended  the  precepts  of  the  Mosaic  Law. 
But  the  condition  which  Mary  prudently  appended  in  no 
way  diminished  the  value  or  weakened  the  strength  of 
her  vow ;  on  the  contrary,  it  embellished  and  enhanced 
it  by  the  merit  of  obedience.  From  which  we  gather 
that,  if  virginity  under  the  New  Law  ranks  as  one  of 
the  first  and  choicest  virtues,  it  was  certainly  not  the 
lowest  under  the  Old  Law.  There  it  occupied,  it  is  true, 
but  a  temporary  place,  being  destined  to  be  soon 
followed  by  the  virtues  of  the  married  state,  but  it  was 
not  without  its  honour  and  its  prerogatives.  Holy 
Scripture  alludes  to  it  as  to  a  privileged  state,  dear  to  God, 
who  took  pleasure  in  the  prayers  of  chaste  youths  and 
pure  young  maidens,  and  who  predestinated  a  virgin  to 
be  the  mother  of  His  Only-Begotten  Son,  and  the  Ee- 
deemer  of  the  human  race.  "When  the  seers  of  Juda," 
says  Orsini,1  "unfolded  to  the  elect  but  oft  chastised 
people  the  prophetic  picture  of  their  miseries  or  their 
victories,  they  always  introduced  in  it  a  virgin,  either 
smiling  or  in  tears,  to  personify  provinces  and  cities.  In 
the  wars  of  extermination,  in  which  the  broadsword  of 
the  Hebrews  cut  down  the  women,  children,  and  old  men 
of  Moab,  the  virgins  were  spared ;  and  the  high-priest, 
who  was  forbidden  by  a  severe  law  to  pay  funeral 
honours  even  to  the  prince  of  his  people,  might  assist 
without  being  defiled  at  the  funeral  of  his  sister  if  she 
had  died  a  virgin.2  The  virgins  took  part  in  the  cere- 
monies of  the  Hebrew  worship  before  that  worship  had  a 
temple.  Dancing  .choirs  of  young  women,  transplanted 
from  Egypt  into  the  desert,  continued  a  long  time,  and 
ceased  only  when  the  ark  was  lost  and  the  first  Temple 
was  destroyed.8  The  virgins  of  Silo,  who  seem  to  have 
been  in  the  time  of  the  Judges  more  especially  conse- 
crated to  the  service  of  the  Lord  than  the  other 

1  History  of  the  Blessed  Virgin  (Husenbeth's  Translation),  pp.  73,  74. 
2  Levit.  xxi.  1-4.  3  Psalm  Ixvii.  26. 

110  ST.   JOSEPH. 

daughters  of  Israel,  were  dancing  to  the  song  of  canticles 
and  the  sound  of  harps,  at  a  short  distance  from  the  holy 
place,  during  a  feast  of  the  Lord,  when  the  sons  of  Ben- 
jamin carried  them  off."  a  "  If  the  Jewish  people,"  says 
P.  Monsabre,2  "  mindful  and  proud  of  the  oracles 
which  promised  them  a  Liberator  born  of  their  own  race, 
esteemed  marriage  above  all  other  states  and  regarded 
sterility  as  an  opprobrium,  they  yet  demanded  continence 
from  their  priests  at  the  periods  when  their  sacred  func- 
tions placed  them  in  relation  with  God.  They  admired 
the  holy  reserve  which  (so  to  say)  buried  women  in  their 
widowhood.  '  Because  thou  hast  loved  chastity,'  said  the 
high-priest,  Joachim,  to  Judith,  '  and  after  thy  husband 
hast  not  known  any  other,  therefore  also  the  hand  of  the 
Lord  hath  strengthened  thee,  and  therefore  thou  shalt  be 
blessed  for  ever.'8  The  pagans  themselves  recognised 
the  beauty  and  greatness  of  a  state  which  protested 
against  the  corruption  of  their  manners.  They  sounded 
its  praises  by  the  mouths  of  their  poets  and  their  orators  ; 
they  called  celibacy  and  virginity  to  the  service  of  their 
gods  and  their  goddesses;  Isis,  Minerva,  Ceres,  and 
Vesta  were  surrounded  by  virgins.  Only  virgins  were 
deemed  worthy  of  guarding  the  sacred  fire  and  of  receiv- 
ing the  oracles  of  heaven  ;  the  virgins  were  reverend  and 
holy  ;  they  merited  the  greatest  honour  ;  the  fasces  of  the 
Lictors  bowed  before  them  •  the  first  places  were  reserved 
for  them  at  all  the  feasts  where  the  majesty  of  the  senate 
and  people  of  Eome  was  displayed ;  and  it  was  not 
thought  too  cruel  to  bury  them  alive  when  they  betrayed 
their  vows." 

But  to  proceed  :  Mary  did  not  give  herself  exclusively 
to  the  contemplative  life ;  she  also  exercised  herself  in 
the  active  life ;  thus  teaching  thereby  how  in  every  state 

1  Judges  xvi.  19-23. 

-  Sermon  at  Notre  Dame  on  Palm  Sunday,  1887. 
3  Judith  xv.  11. 


the  two  may  be  united.  St.  Epiphanius,  St.  Jerome,.  St. 
Ambrose,  and  St.  Bonaventura,  all  describe  this  most 
holy  child  as  occupied  in  the  Temple  in  domestic  work. 
Her  hands  plied  the  needle,  the  distaff,  and  the  spindle, 
in  labour  for  the  poor,  as  well  as  for  the  decoration  of 
God's  House  and  making  vestments  for  the  priests.  St. 
Epiphanius  also  tells  us  that  the  Blessed  Virgin  excelled 
all  her  companions  in  embroidery  and  in  the  art  of  work- 
ing in  wool,  fine  linen,  and  gold.  The  cedar  spindles 
which  she  used  were,  we  are  told,  preserved  as  a  pious 
memorial  in  the  Church  at  Jerusalem.  Amongst  all 
these  occupations  she  found  time  to  study  and  meditate 
profoundly  the  Sacred  Scriptures,  of  which  the  Fathers 
attribute  to  her  a  consummate  understanding.  Her  won- 
derful intellect,  unrelaxing  application,  and  the  super- 
natural science  infused  by  God  had,  indeed,  already  made 
her  a  true  Seat  of  Wisdom.  Marvellous  things  are  related 
of  this  predestined  child,  of  which  the  echoes  have  reached 
us  through  tradition  :  how  she  would  rise  alone  to  pray 
at  midnight ;  how  she  would  sometimes  prolong  her 
fasts  for  three  days,  and  how  angels  would  bring  her 
fruits  from  Paradise;1  how  she  enjoyed  constant  union 
with  God,  and  was  favoured  with  the  sublimest  visions. 
And  well  may  this  have  been  so,  since  nothing  which  has 
been  liberally  bestowed  upon  the  saints  can  have  been 
wanting  in  the  case  of  her  who  was  to  be  the  august 
Mother  of  God,  the  Queen  of  Angels  and  of  Saints. 

Thus  was  being  prepared  the  accomplishment  of  the 
Divine  Will,  which  had  decreed  to  unite  Mary  and  Joseph 
in  marriage.  Wonderful  indeed  are  the  ways  of  God  ! 
Who  would  have  believed  that  Joseph,  who  had  resolved 
to  keep  the  Evangelical  counsels,  before  the  Son  of  God 
had  appeared  on  earth  to  proclaim  them,  should  bind 
himself  with  the  ties  of  matrimony  ?  This  holy  man's 

1  This  tradition  is  credited  by  St.  Gregory  Nazianzen,  St.  Am- 
brose, St.  Jerome,  and  others. 

112  ST.    JOSEPH. 

purity  of  mind  and  body  seemed  to  raise  him  to  a  height 
far  superior  to  the  obligations  of  that  state ;  and,  if  this 
be  true  of  Joseph,  what  shall  we  say  of  our  Sovereign 
Lady,  Mary,  the  most  perfect  of  all  creatures,  exalted  to 
so  sublime  a  height  that  in  God's  whole  universe  there 
was  none  equal  to  her  ?  If  Joseph  did  not  seem  created 
for  the  married  state,  still  less  could  Mary ;  for,  if  the 
eminent  virtue  of  this  illustrious  son  of  David  was  too 
perfect  for  a  condition  of  life  in  itself  not  the  most 
perfect,  must  not  the  surpassing  sanctity  of  Mary  have 
placed  her  at  a  far  greater  distance  from  it  ?  Yet  this 
union  had  been  decreed  in  the  counsels  of  the  Three  Ador- 
able Persons  of  the  Ever-Blessed  Trinity.  The  devout 
Andrew,  Bishop  of  Crete,  calls  the  Blessed  Virgin  a  very 
world  in  herself,  who  within  the  narrow  compass  of  her 
bosom  enclosed  Him  whom  the  whole  universe  cannot 
contain.1  Would  it,  then,  be  possible  that  God  should 
take  such  particular  care  of  all  His  creation  as  to  set 
angels  over  the  stars  and  the  elements,  to  regulate  their 
movements,  their  powers,  and  their  influences,  and  be 
indifferent  as  respected  the  husband  to  whom  He 
designed  to  confide  the  guardianship  of  this  marvellous 
world,  which  alone  exceeded  in  value  thousands  of 
worlds  ? 

But  it  is  not  sufficient  to  Believe  that  the  Most  Holy 
Trinity  approved  and  ratified  this  marriage.  If  prin- 
cesses, daughters  of  earthly  monarchs,  cannot  contract 
an  alliance  without  the  consent  of  the  sovereign,  in  order 
to  obviate  any  union  derogatory  to  their  royal  blood, 
much  more  was  this  needful  in  the  case  of  Mary.  She 
was,  not  only  the  daughter  of  the  royal  house  of  David, 
but  a  princess  of  a  superior  order,  nay,  in  some  sort,  a 
divine  order ;  for,  though  her  origin  was  not  divine,  the 
blood  in  her  veins  was  at  least  sufficiently  pure  to  be 
converted  into  that  of  the  God-Man.  From  all  eternity 

1  Orat.  i.  de  Dormitione  Deiparce. 


Mary  had  been  chosen  by  the  Ever-Blessed  Trinity  for 
this  incomparable  dignity,  and,  when  the  fulness  of  time 
was  come,  had  been  fitted  and  prepared  miraculously  for 
it,  and  rendered  as  worthy  of  it  as  was  possible  for  a  pure 
creature  to  be.  If,  then,  it  entered  into  the  Divine 
counsels  to  give  her  an  earthly  spouse  for  her  protector, 
Joseph,  assuredly,  must  have  been  also  the  special  choice 
of  .the  Triune  God,  Father,  Son,  and  Holy  Ghost ;  and, 
being  so,  it  would  not  be  conceivable  that  he  should  not 
have  been  rendered  as  worthy  of  this  exalted  honour  as 
it  was  possible  for  him  to  be.  Bernardine  de  Bustis 
teaches  that,  this  marriage  having  been  the  most  perfect 
ever  contracted,  the  Blessed  Trinity,  which  had  decreed 
it  before  the  world  was,  had  also  ordained  that  there 
should  be  between  the  two  admirable  contractors  a  more 
adequate  similarity  than  in  any  who  have  entered  into 
this  state  of  life  ;*  and  this  similarity  between  Joseph  and 
Mary  consisted,  riot  only  in  externals  and  in  the  natural 
affections  and  inclinations,  but  more  particularly .  in 
supernatural  gifts.  Joseph,  therefore,  was  enriched  with 
heavenly  graces  that  he  might  resemble  his  blessed 
spouse,  and  be  qualified  to  combine  with  her  in  the  care 
and  education  of  the  Saviour  of  the  world. 

It  is  the  common  opinion  of  Doctors  of  the  Church 
that,  when  the  Blessed  Trinity  gave  our  saint  as  spouse 
to  Mary,  no  other  man  could  have  been  found  so  like  to 
her.  Both  were  in  so  high  a  grade  of  perfection  that 
even  as  there  would  have  been  a  great  and  unsuitable 
disproportion  between  the  Virgin  and  any  other  spouse, 
so  also  would  there  have  been  a  signal  inequality  between 
Joseph  and  any  other  consort  who  might  have  been 
allotted  to  him.  St.  Bernardine  of  Siena  is  of  opinion 
that  there  never  were  two  spouses  so  like  to  each  other 
as  were  Mary  and  Joseph.2  Not  that  any  one  pretends 
to  affirm  that  an  entire  equality  subsisted  between  them. 

1  Mariale,  Sermo  xii.  2  Sermo  de  S.  Joseph,  t.  iii.  c.  i. 


114  ST.    JOSEPH. 

Such  an  assertion  would  he  both  false  and  impious. 
Similarity  and  conformity  do  not,  and  could  not,  in  this 
case  imply  equality.  Their  equality  consisted  in  this, 
that  Joseph  was  so  exceedingly  like  to  Mary  that  he  had 
none  like  to  him  among  men.  Inferior  to  the  Blessed 
Virgin  alone,  he  was  superior  to  all  else  besides.  In  that 
superiority,  therefore,  they  were  partners.  What  a  singu- 
lar glory  was  this,  to  be  so  like  to  the  Blessed  Virgin 
as  to  possess  in  a  great  measure  common  privileges  with 
her,  and  to  have  a  love  for  God  of  the  same  character  as 
her  own !  And,  in  effect,  our  Lady,  as  a  learned  interpreter 
observes,  places  no  difference  between  the  vehement 
sorrow  and  anxiety  she  experienced  at  the  loss  of  her 
Son,  and  the  sorrow,  anxiety,  and  solicitude  of  her 
husband :  "  Behold  Thy  father  and  I  have  sought  Thee 
sorrowing  V  She  thus  gives  us  the  liberty  to  compare 
the  love  which  they  both  had  for  Jesus,  and  to  hold  as  a 
consequence  that  Joseph  was  so  similar*  to  her  that  there 
was  no  one  else  who  could  enter  into  comparison  with 

Certainly  we  need  no  greater  proof  of  the  eminent 
sanctity  of  Joseph  than  is  implied  in  the  choice  made  of 
him  by  God  to  be  the  husband  of  Mary.  We  have  only 
to  look  at  her  to  know  what  he  must  have  been.  In  the 
first  marriage  which  was  ever  contracted,  that  of  our 
first  parents,  God  destined  the  man  to  be  the  model  of 
the  woman  :  "  Let  us  make  him  a  help  like  unto  him- 
self "  ; 2  but  in  the  most  holy  of  all  marriages,  that  of 
Mary  and  Joseph,  the  wife  was  chosen  as  the  model  of 
her  spouse ;  and  thus  the  elevation  of  Mary  furnishes  us 
with  a  standard  for  conceiving  how  high  must  have  been 
that  of  Joseph.  The  Blessed  Trinity,  in  determining  to 
give  to  Mary  this  companion,  determined  also  that  he 
should  be  a  wondrous  copy  of  her  perfections  and 

1  St.  Luke  ii.  48.  2  Gen.  ii.  18. 


endowed  with  her  incomparable  qualities,  while  for  his 
greater  honour  It  decreed  that  he  himself  should 
meritoriously  co-operate  in  the  acquisition  of  them. 
Jacob  serve<J  only  fourteen  years  to  win  the  beautiful 
Rachel,  but  Joseph  during  his  whole  life  had  been  pre- 
paring for  the  dignity  of  spouse  to  the  Queen  of  Angels. 
This  Sovereign  Lady,  indeed,  was  of  incomparably 
greater  worth  than  was  Laban's  fair  daughter,  and  a 
seraph  after  many  centuries  of  devoted  service  might  have 
deemed  himself  rich  if  he  had  obtained  one  word  of 
recognition  or  one  favourable  glance  from  Mary.  How 
great,  then,  was  the  honour  which  the  Blessed  Trinity 
conferred  on  Joseph  ! 

This  marriage  having  been  decreed  in  the  secret 
counsels  of  the  Triune  God,  it  was,  moreover,  to  receive 
on  earth  the  highest  possible  sanction  by  becoming 
matter  of  deliberation  and  determination  on  the  part  of 
the  heads  of  the  Jewish  Church,  the  chief  priests  and 
doctors  of  the  law,  as  we  shall  presently  see. 

(  116 



THE  Divine  Word,  when  appearing  upon  earth  to 
redeem  and  renew  our  fallen  race,  would  not,  in  as- 
suming the  nature  of  man,  touch  anything  that  was  de- 
nied, but  willed  to  be -born  of  an  Immaculate  Virgin. 
This  Virgin,  however,  as  the  Fathers  have  observed,  must 
first  be  espoused  to  a  husband,  that  he  might  be  the  shield 
and  protector  of  her  honour,  which  would  otherwise  be 
exposed  to  injurious  aspersions  when  she  became  a 
mother,  as  well  as  to  conceal  for  a  time  the  secret  of  the 
Incarnation.  That  mysterious  cloud  which  in  the  desert 
covered,  as  with  a  white  veil,  the  Ark  of  the  God  of 
Israel,  presents  us  with  a  striking  figure  of  the  office  of. 
Joseph,  the  most  glorious  of  the  Patriarchs,  divinely 
elected  to  be  the  husband  of  Mary,  the  most  highly 
gifted  among  all  the  daughters  of  Eve,  in  order  to  hide 
from  every  profane  eye  the  adorable  mystery  which  was 
to  be  effected  in  that  true  ark  of  the  Living  God,  the 
bosom  of  Mary,  wherein  He  was  coming  to  abide  as  in 
His  Tabernacle.  God,  who  willed  to  accomplish  this 
two-fold  object,  had  in  His  wisdom  provided  His  holy 
Mother  with  a  spouse  who,  while  united  to  her  in  the 
marriage  bond,  should  not  only  be  the  guardian  of  her 
virginal  purity,  but  be  himself  a  virgin,  and  with  the 
love  of  virginal  purity  so  deeply  rooted  in  his  heart  that 
it  was  to  be  like  to  her  own,  and  receive  additional  lustre 


from  it,  as  does  the  white  cloud  from  the  rays  of  the  orb 
of  day  which  it  veils  from  our  view. 

Such  was  to  be  this  greatest  and  most  perfect  marriage. 
And  we  may  well  believe  that  it  also  entered  into  God's 
designs  to  honour  and  exalt  the  marriage-state  in  the 
espousals  of  Mary  and  Joseph.  The  Author  of  nature 
at  the  commencement  of  the  ages  had  in  Eden  Himself 
instituted  the  marital  bond,  and  had  bestowed  His 
blessing  upon  it  and  upon  the  first  married  couple ;  and 
the  Author  of  grace,  when  pronouncing  that  tie  indis- 
soluble, also  enriched  it  with  such  heavenly  gifts  that 
under  the  Gospel  dispensation  it  was  to  be  raised  to 
the  dignity  of  a  sacrament.  Adam  and  Eye,  although 
adorned  with  original  justice,  had  fallen  and  become 
sinners  before  being  parents,  and  thus  had  marred  this 
divine  institution.  Now,  the  Incarnate  Word,  who 
came  to  repair  all  that  the  first  man's  sin  had  ruined, 
could  not  but  restore  honour  to  that  which  is  the  basis 
of  the  human  family  and  of  society.  God  would  insti- 
tute another  marriage  in  reparation  of  His  glory,  and  to 
remedy  the  defect  of  the  first.  Choosing,  therefore,  the 
most  just  of  men,  He  gave  him  the  most  perfect  of 
women  for  his  spouse,  who  not  only  would  not  place  him 
in  danger  of  sinning,  but  would  aid  him  to  attain  the 
highest  summit  of  perfection.  The  glory  of  God  required 
this ;  since,  if  Mary  was  to  be  His  mother,  Joseph  was 
to  be  His  father,  though  not  by  nature,  yet  by  virtue  of 
his  office.  He  was  to  be  His  reputed  father,  fulfilling  all 
the  duties  and  obligations  belonging  to  that  relationship. 
The  glory  of  God,  therefore,  required  that  He  should 
give  him  a  consort  who  would  be  truly  an  aid  to  him,  as 
Eve  was  designed  to  be  to  Adam. 

Seeing,  then,  that  the  knitting  of  this  new  tie  was  not 
only  a  most  important  work,  but  the  most  important 
ever  as  yet  transacted  in  the  world,  God  was  pleased  to 
employ  in  effecting  it  those  persons  who  occupied  the 

118  ST.   JOSEPH. 

highest  position  in  the  Jewish  Church.  It  is  the  uni- 
versal opinion  of  the  Fathers  that  it  was  the  doctors, 
priests,  and  heads  of  the  Synagogue  who  proposed  and 
brought  about  this  alliance.  St.  John  Damascene, 
indeed,  asserts  that  Mary  was  espoused  to  Joseph,  not 
merely  by  the  advice,  but  by  the  authority  of  the  Syna- 
gogue ;  and  that  the  priests  were  not  content  with  deter- 
mining the  marriage  of  the  Virgin,  nor  with  selecting  her 
spouse,  but  esteemed  it  an  honour  to  conduct  her  them- 
selves to  Joseph,  and  consign  her  into  his  hands.  It  is 
certain,  as  St.  Jerome  says,  that  the  priests  were  not  in 
the  habit  of  charging  themselves  with  the  establishment 
of  the  maidens  confided  to  them  for  education  in  the 
Temple,  but  were  wont  to  restore  them  to  their  parents 
at  a  suitable  age,  that  they  might  provide  for  their 
marriage.  But  in  this  case  they  acted  differently, 
whether  from  a  particular  inspiration,  as  was  the  opinion 
of  St.  Gregory  Nazianzen,  or  that,  the  parents  of  the 
Blessed  Virgin  having  died  during  her  abode  in  the 
Temple  (as  is  generally  believed),  they  considered  that 
it  devolved  upon  them  to  provide  for  'this  holy  maiden's 
future.  She  was  a  daughter  of  the  house  of  David,  and 
was,  moreover,  the  heiress  of  whatever  had  belonged  to 
Joachim  and  Anne.  In  such  cases,  where  the  woman 
represented  her  family  and  inherited  property,  the  ancient 
law  was  particularly  stringent  concerning  her  marriage 
with  a  member  of  her  own  tribe,  in  other  cases  allowing 
a  certain  latitude. 

We  have  reason  to  suppose  that  to  many  in  Judea  it 
must  have  been  known  that  miraculous  circumstances  were 
connected  with  the  birth  of  Mary  ;  and,  if  we  are  to  credit 
in  this  respect  the  author  of  the  Book  of  her  Nativity 
which  has  been  by  some  attributed  to  St.  Jerome,1  her 

1  This  book  is  regarded  as  apocryphal,  and  cannot  be  relied  on  ; 
nevertheless  it  may  contain  true  facts,  along  with  doubtful  state- 
ments and  such  as  do  not  deserve  credit. 


birth  was  preceded  and  followed  by  many  prodigies 
indicating  her  surpassing  excellence.  What  the  priests 
of  the  Lord  had  witnessed  must  have  strengthened  in 
their  minds,  we  may  well  suppose,  the  impression  which 
may  have  been,  produced  by  such  reports.  They  must 
have  well  remembered  how  when  Mary  arrived  at  the 
Temple,  in  age  an  infant  of  three  years,  but  mature  in 
grace  and  dignity,  she  had  ascended  the  steps  of  the 
sacred  edifice  on  the  day  of  her  Presentation  with  the 
devotion  and  fervour  of  a  seraph.  Moreover,  the  life 
which  she  had  led  for  eleven  or  twelve  years  in  this  holy 
retirement  was  one  of  such  perfection,  such  regularity, 
and  was  so  marvellous  in  its  character,  as  to  inspire  them 
with  indescribable  respect ;  so  much  so  that  some  of  the 
Fathers  have  asserted  that  she  was  admitted  more  than 
once  to  worship  in  the  inner  portion  of  the  Temple, 
commonly  inhibited  to  women.  Be  this  as  it  may, 
the  admiration  excited  in  the  minds  of  the  priests  by  the 
sight  of  her  virtues  and  the  cognisance  of  supernatural 
facts  connected  with  her  life  must  have  made  them  the 
more  solicitous  to  select  for  this  heavenly  maiden  a 
spouse  who  might  be  worthy  of  her. 

And  now  the  question  occurs,  did  Mary,  whose  ardent 
desire  it  was  to  devote  all  her  days  to  the  service  of  God, 
and  who,  moreover,  had  consecrated  to  Him  her  virginity 
by  vow,  when  made  aware  that  it  was  the  purpose  of  her 
tutors  and  governors,  the  doctors  and  priests  of  the 
Temple,  to  give  her  in  marriage,  allege  as  an  obstacle  the 
solemn  promise  she  had  made  ?  Some,  and  among  them 
ranks  Canon  Antonio  Vitali,  are  of  opinion  that  she 
did  so,  and  would  certainly  have  confided  her  dismay  to 
her  near  relative,  Zachary,  who,  as  we  know  from  the 
Gospel,  took  his  regular  turn  of  officiating  in  the  solemn 
service  of  the  Temple;  indeed,  he  seems  to  take  for 
granted  that  she  had  made  her  vow  with  his  cognisance 
and  sanction ;  but,  as  he  does  not  allege  any  authority  or 

120  ST.    JOSEPH. 

tradition  in  favour  of  this  view,  we  are  at  full  liberty  to 
.form  our  own  judgment  in  the  matter.  Objections  will 
not  unnaturally  suggest  themselves.  As  such  a  vow 
appears  to  have  been  without  precedent  amongst  the 
maidens  of  Israel,  it  is  difficult  to  imagine  how  Zachary, 
unless  he  were  divinely  illuminated,  would  have  advised 
or  sanctioned  it.  In  the  absence,  therefore,  of  all  light 
upon  the  subject,  we  are  free  to  believe  that  Mary's 
promise  to  God,  having  been  formed  through  the  imme- 
diate inspiration  of  her  inward  Guide  and  Director,  her 
secret  also  by  the  same  dictation  remained  between  herself 
and  God.1  Her  silence  on  other  occasions  of  an  analogous 
kind  would  lead  us  to  this  conclusion :  "  My  secret  to 
myself  ".2  But  whichever  view  may  approve  itself  to  the 
mind,  it  is  certain  that  the  Ancilla  Domini  would  have 
been  prepared  to  submit  to  the  will  of  Him  who  had 
prompted  the  vow,  as  signified  to  her  by  those  whose 
authority  over  her  made  them  His  representatives  in  her 
regard.  Moreover,  she  would  feel  persuaded  that  He 
would  know  how  to  guard  the  treasure  committed  to  His 
keeping ;  and  we  are  encouraged  in  this  conviction  by 
the  testimony  of .  saints  and  saintly  persons,  who  have 
asserted  that  'the  Blessed  Virgin  herself  had  told  them 
that  she  was  assured  by  divine  revelation  that  her 
virginity  would  not  be  endangered  by  her  espousals.  We 
have  here  been  speaking  exclusively  of  her  actual  vow  of 
virginity,  but  there  can  be  little,  if  any;  doubt  that  the 
priests  and  guardians  of  Mary  knew  that  her  own  desire 
would  have  been  to  dedicate  herself  to  God  in  His  Temple 
for  the  remainder  of  her  days. 

We  may  readily  believe  that  among  the  young  men  of 
her  kindred  there  must  have  been  an  eager  competition 
for  the  hand  of  the  daughter  of  Joachim  and  Anne,  for 

1  We  are  glad  to  find  that  in  this  view  we  have  the  concurrence  of 
F.  Coleridge  in  his  admirable  work,  The  Mother  of  the  King. 
2  Isaias  xxiv.  16. 


Mary's  perfections  and  endowments  of  every  kind  cannot, 
notwithstanding  her  secluded  life,  have  remained  con- 
cealed ;  and  among  these  aspirants  would  be  many  who 
were  rich,  accomplished,  and  occupying  honourable  situ- 
ations. Joseph  was  her  nearest  of  kin,  being,  as  seems 
most  probable,  nephew  to  her  mother  and  nearly  related 
to  her  also  through  Joachim,  her  father.  Moreover,  it  is 
impossible  to  imagine  that  she  could  have  been  personally 
unknown  to  him.  He  may  have  seen  this  blessed  infant 
in  her  cradle  and  witnessed  her  Presentation  in  the 
Temple ;  neither  is  it  easy  to  conceive  that  his  piety  and 
sweetness  of  disposition,  coupled  with  his  close  relation- 
ship, had  not  endeared  him  to  her  holy  parents.  From 
humility  and  the  love  of  poverty,  more  than  from  any 
absolute  necessity,  he,  the  lineal  descendant  of  kings,  had 
subjected  himself  to  the  daily  toil  of  a  mechanic,  which, 
although  it  in  no  way  degraded  him  in  the  eyes  of  true 
Hebrews,  placed  him  in  a  position  of  some  social  in- 
feriority. Such  was  the  life  he  led  at  the  time  when  it 
was  in  contemplation  to  bestow  upon  him  the  greatest 
honour  which  any  man  ever  received ;  separated  from  the 
surrounding  world,  in  a  state  of  total  renunciation  and 
contempt  of  created  things,  retired  and  unnoticed,  with 
no  earthly  desire  but  to  remain  in  his  obscurity,  forgotten 
of  all,  and  known  only  to  God.  Far,  therefore,  from 
aspiring  to  an  alliance  with  Mary,  or  entertaining  any 
solicitude  on  the  subject,  he  would,  apart  from  his  vow  of 
virginity,  by  which  he  had  abandoned  all  thoughts  of  the 
married  state,  have  deemed  himself  utterly  unworthy  of 
her.  Joseph,  then,  was  certainly  not  of  the  number  of 
the  claimants.  Yet,  notwithstanding  his  desire  to  eclipse 
himself,  he  had  not  been  able  so  far  to  conceal  his  high 
sanctity  and  rare  merits  as  to  escape  the  observation  of 
the  priests  who  had  the  guardianship  of  the  Virgin  of 
Nazareth ;  at  least  we  seem  irresistibly  led  to  this  con- 
clusion, since  it  was  upon  him  that  their  choice  fell ;  on 

122  ST.    JOSEPH. 

him,  the  poor  artisan,  in  preference  to  many  who  must 
have  possessed  higher  worldly  recommendations,  and  in 
spite  of  the  exalted  estimation  in  which  they  held  the 
heavenly-gifted  maiden,  their  ward,  an  estimation  which 
laid  upon  them  the  responsibility  of  procuring  for  her  the 
most  suitable  and  most  honourable  marriage  possible. 

(  123  ) 


ST.  EPIPHANIUS  describes  St.  Joseph,  not  only  as 
great  among  men  and  faithful  in  all  his  ways,  but 
as  reflecting  the  beauty  of  his  interior  holiness  in  his 
countenance  and  exterior.  This  striking  sanctity,  re- 
vealed in  his  person,  might  alone  have  served  to  give 
a  sufficient  explanation  of  the  preference  awarded  him 
over  all  the  competitors.  Albert  the  Great,  indeed, 
is  of  opinion  that  the  Synagogue  judged  that  it  contri- 
buted to  the  glory  of  the  most  holy  Virgin  by  choosing 
Joseph  for  her  spouse,  for  that  his  virtue  was  so  con- 
summate and  admirable  that  he  might  have  conferred 
honour  on  the  holiest  alliance  ever  contracted,  or  to  be 
contracted.  Could  there  be  a  greater  panegyric  of  our 
saint,  could  his  rare  qualities  have  received  a  higher 
encomium,  than  in  the  fact  that  the  priests  of  the 
Temple  and  the  doctors  of  the  Law,  in  a  body,  after 
applying  themselves  with  mature  deliberation  to  make 
their  election,  as  St.  Gregory  Nazianzen  tells  us  they  did, 
should  have  turned  their  eyes  to  Joseph,  albeit  a  poor 
man,  because  the  wealth  of  his  virtues  and  the  treasure 
of  his  merits  raised  him  to  an  equality  with  the  greatest 
and  noblest  man  upon  earth  ?  Yes,  one  higher  testimony 
he  might  have,  and  we  have  every  reason  to  believe  that 
it  was  awarded  to  him — the  testimony  of  God  Himself. 
There  is  a  general  agreement  among  the  Fathers  and 
Doctors  of  the  Church  that  Joseph  was  pointed  out  as 
the  spouse  of  Mary  by  a  marvellous  sign  from  Heaven. 

124  ST.    JOSEPH. 

St.  Epiphanius,  to  whom  allusion  has  just  been  made, 
says  that  he  was  chosen  by  lot.  Now,  the  lot,  as  used 
on  such  occasions,  and  accompanied  by  prayer,  was  con- 
sidered by  the  Jews  as  equivalent  to  a  Divine  pronounce- 
ment ;  as  we  see,  for  instance,  in  the  choice  of  an  Apostle 
to  fill  the  place  of  Judas.1  St.  Gregory  Nazianzen  also 
speaks  of  the  priests  having  selected  Joseph  as  husband 
and  guardian  for  Mary  by  lot,  over  which  the  Holy  Ghost 
presided.  In  like  manner,  the  aged  Patriarch  of  Con- 
stantinople, St.  Germanus,  says  that  by  a  sign  from  God, 
and  by  the  counsel  of  the  priests,  the  lot  was  cast  con- 
cerning the  Virgin ;  and  the  great  Chancellor  of  Paris 
and  devout  client  of  Mary,  Gerson,  declared,  before  all 
the  Fathers  assembled  in  council  at  Constance,  that 
Joseph  took  a  wife  moved  thereto  by  the  Holy  Spirit. 
All  speak  alike  upon  this  point ;  but  none  of  them  ex- 
plain in  what  manner  the  lot  was  cast,  or  in  what  mode 
the  Holy  Spirit  manifested  His  decision.  A  very  ancient 
tradition,  however,  supported  by  some  Fathers  and  by 
many  sacred  writers,  and  resting  also  on  popular  belief, 
informs  us  that  the  high-priest,  divinely  inspired,  renewed 
the  proof  to  which  Moses  had  recourse  when  it  was 
question  of  the  high-priesthood  of  Aaron  ;  God  saying  to 
him  :  "  Whomsoever  of  these  I  shall  choose,  his  rod 
shall  blossom  ".2  All  the  unmarried  men  of  the  race  of 
David,  and  among  them  Joseph,  being  summoned  to 
appear,  the  high-priest8  bade  each  of  them  bring  a  rod 
with  his  name  inscribed  upon  it,  and  whosesoever 's  rod 
should  be  found  the  next  day  to  have  blossomed,  he  it 
was  who  should  be  the  spouse  of  Mary.  So  it  was  done  ; 
and  on  the  morrow,  while  the  rods  of  all  the  rest  had 
remained  dry  and  unfruitful,  that  of  Joseph  had  budded 

1  Acts  i.  26.  *  Numbers  xvii.  5. 

3  P.  Gabriele  Valenzuella,  Barnabite,  in  his  Life  of  St.  Joseph, 
says  that  this  high-priest's  name  was  Abiatar. 


and  blossomed,  and  borne  leaves  and  beautiful  flowers. 
At  the  same  time,  a  white  dove  was  seen  to  descend  and 
light  upon  it.  The  aspirants  were  all  filled  with  grief 
and  disappointment,  and  one  of  them  in  particular,  it  is 
said,  a  noble  youth,  possessing  a  rich  patrimony,  seeing 
his  hopes  deluded,  broke  his  rod,1  and,  refusing  to  give 
his  affection  to  any  one  but  Mary,  retired  to  a  grotto  on 
Mount  Carmel,  where,  among  the  disciples  of  Elias,  he 
arrived  at  great  sanctity,  and  built  a  chapel  in  honour  of 
the  most  holy  Virgin. 

It  is  true  that  critics  are  not  wanting  who  reject  these 
traditions  altogether,  gathered,  as  they  allow,  from  very 
ancient  legendary  .  writings,  but  writings  which  are 
apocryphal,  that  is,  unauthentic  and  doubtful.  But  is 
this  sweeping  condemnation  of  all  that  is  found  con- 
tained in  such  writings  reasonable  ?  Hardly  so.  We 
have  here  to  deal  with  a  pious  tradition,  not  gathered 
merely  from  these  apocryphal  sources,  but  handed  down 
among  the  faithful.  It  has  been  alluded  to  by  saints 
and  doctors,  and  adopted  by  devout  and  diligent  historians 
of  St.  Joseph  in  later  times.  Moreover,  from  the  earliest 
ages  of  the  Church  it  has  been  depicted  on  tablets  and 
sculptured  in  marble.  Joseph,  therefore,  has  every  right 
not  to  see  himself  despoiled  of  his  flowering  rod,  the 
sign  and  testimony  of  the  miraculous  choice  made  of  him 
as  the  spouse  of  Mary.  Many,  indeed,  have  seen  therein 
the  literal  fulfilment  in  symbol  of  that  prophecy  of  Isaias : 
"  And  there  shall  come  forth  a  rod  out  of  the  root  of 
Jesse,  and  a  flower  shall  rise  up  out  of  his  root  ",2  Was 
it  difficult  for  God  to  cause  a  dry  stick  to  blossom,  and 
did  not  the  importance  of  the  choice  seem  to  call  for  a 
supernatural  sign,  that  all  might  acknowledge  the  Divine 
will  in  this  election?  And  because  this  incident  is  related 

1  This  incident  is  delineated  in  Raphael's  celebrated  picture  of 
the  Betrothal. 

2  Isaias  xi.  1. 

126  ST.    JOSEPH. 

in  some  apocryphal  books,  which  contain  other  matter 
doubtful  or  undeserving  of  credit,  its  presence  there 
ought  not  to  suffice  to  invalidate  its  claim  on  our  accept- 
ance. If  these  books  offer  no  guarantee  of  the  truth  of 
any  particular  affirmation  contained  in  them,  neither,  on 
the  other  hand,  is  everything  they  relate  to  be  necessarily 
condemned  as  false. 

What  were  the  feelings  of  the  humble  Joseph  when  he 
found  himself  divinely  singled  out  in  preference  to  all 
these  youths  of  far  higher  worldly  pretensions,  and  for 
an  honour  of  which  he  believed  himself  unworthy,  it 
would  not  be  easy  to  realise.  We  must  be  humble  like 
him  to  conceive  how  abashed  and  confounded  he  stood 
before  the  assembly.  Yet  for  one  thing,  we  may  be  sure, 
he  returned  fervent  thanks  to  God  in  his  heart ;  he  knew 
that,  if  called  to  embrace  the  married  state,  in  espousing 
Mary  his  promise  of  keeping  his  virginity  was  safe.  We 
have  the  authority  of  a  great  saint  for  believing  this",  that 
of  St.  Bridget,  to  whom  our  Lady  said  :  "  Eegard  it  as 
most  certain  that  Joseph,  before  being  espoused  to  me, 
knew  by  the  inspiration  of  the  Holy  Spirit  that  I  had 
made  a  vow  of  virginity".1  St.  Thomas,  also,  enquiring 
how  it  was  that  Mary  consented  to  be  espoused  to 
Joseph  when  she  had  made  a  vow  of  virginity,  thus 
replies  to  his  own  question  :  "  The  Blessed  Virgin,  before 
contracting  marriage  with  Joseph,  was  certified  by  God 
that  he  had  formed  a  similar  resolve,  and  therefore  that 
she  exposed  herself  to  no  risk  in  espousing  him  ".2 

We  have  said  that  this  marriage,  having  been  decreed 
in  Heaven,  was  also  to  receive  the  highest  earthly  sanc- 
tion in  the  decision  of  the  heads  of  the  Jewish  Church. 
It  wanted  now  the  consent  of  Mary,  and  consent  is 
essential  in  the  contract  of  matrimony.  The  Blessed 
Virgin,  as  has  been  observed,  was  certain  to  submit  to 

1  Revelations,  b.  vii.  c.  xxiii.  2  In  Qucest.  Sent.  q.  ii.  a.  1. 


the  will  of  God  in  all  that  concerned  her,  but  this  must 
not  lead  us  to  think  of  her  submission  as  simply  blind 
and  passive.  It  was  a  free  consent,  a  reasonable  consent. 
Even  when  an  archangel  was  sent  from  Heaven  to 
announce  to  her  the  Incarnation  of  the  Word,  we  find 
her  first  pondering  anxiously  the  meaning  of  Gabriel's 
salutation,  and  even  asking  a  question  for  the  removal 
of  a  difficulty  and  the  satisfaction  of  her  mind  :  "  How 
shall  this  thing  be?"  before  pronouncing  the  Fiat  mihi. 
If,  then,  as  is  most  true,  she  gave  her  consent  to  her 
espousals  with  Joseph,  we  may  be  sure  that  it  was  not 
without  mature  deliberation  and  examination  of  the 
obligations  which  she  was  about  to  assume.  As  a  learned 
doctor  of  our  day 1  has  said,  no  devout  soul  has  ever 
embraced  the  profession  of  a  religious  life  with  such 
consummabe  prudence,  or  so  closely  examined  and  re- 
flected on  its  vocation,  as  did  Mary  in  contracting  this 

We  must  remember  that,  although  our  Lady  numbered 
only  fourteen  years  at  the  time  of  her  espousals,  she  had 
a  mind  fully  enlightened ;  prudence,  in  her,  had  not 
waited  for  mature  years,  and  God  had  infused  into  her 
from  her  tenderest  infancy  all  that  knowledge  which  is 
ordinarily  acquired  by  study  or  experience.  She,  there- 
fore, perfectly  understood  that  she  ought  not  to  commit 
herself  to  the  guidance  of  one  who  was  not  gifted  with 
consummate  prudence,  for  she  knew  that  the  head  of  the 
woman  is  the  man,  and  God,  who  had  liberated  this 
Sovereign  Virgin  from  the  power  of  sin  and  of  hell,  had 
not  emancipated  her  from  obedience  to  this  law.  It 
would  be  reprehensible  in  her  to  confide  herself  to  the 
charge  of  any  one  who  was  not  most  discreet  and  faith- 
ful, or  trust  her  purity  to  a  spouse  who  was  not  himself 
as  pure  as  the  heavenly  spirits,  or  take  any  man  to  be 

1  Gregorius  de  Rhodes.  . 

128  ST.    JOSEPH. 

the  intimate  companion  of  her  life  whose  own  standard 
was  not  of  the  most  exalted  virtue.  She  knew,  in  short, 
that  in  taking  a  husband  she  was  taking  a  superior,  a 
confidant  of  her  thoughts,  a  depositary  of  her  secrets,  a 
witness  of  her  actions.  He  must,  therefore,  be  eminently 
prudent,  faithful,  and  chaste ;  in  a  word,  he  must  be 
eminently  holy.  She  knew  also  that  she  enjoyed  perfect 
freedom  as  regarded  her  consent.  The  priests  and 
doctors  proposed  to  her  a  husband,  but  they  could  not 
command  her  to  accept  him.  It  did  not  appertain  to 
them  to  do  so.  God  alone  can  command  a  maiden 
contracting  matrimony  to  choose  such  a  one  and  no  other 
for  her  spouse.1  Nor  are  the  relatives  of  the  Virgin  likely 
to  have  brought  any  influence  to  bear  upon  her  in  the 
choice  she  made.  Eelatives  generally  think  a  good  deal 
of  temporal  interests,  and  Joseph  was  but  a  poor  artisan. 
The  acquiescence,  therefore,  of  this  Sovereign  Lady  in 
taking  Joseph  for  her  spouse  must  be  regarded  as  the 
result  of  her  own  free  election.  .Let  us  see,  then,  all  that 
is  implied  herein. 

The  opinion  entertained  by  any  person  of  another, 
and  the  estimation  in  which  he  is  held  by  that  person, 
derive  their  value  from  the  wisdom  and  virtue  possessed 
by  the  person  forming  this  estimate.  Wisdom  is  needed 
to  penetrate  and  discern  the  true  interior  merit  of  the 
individual  thus  judged,  and  virtue  to  have  a  just  appre- 
ciation of  the  merit.  Now,  as  the  most  holy  Virgin  had 
more  wisdom  than  all  men  and  angels,  and  as.  her  virtue 
exceeded  that  of  all  pure  creatures,  the  honour  which  she 
paid  to  any  one  and  the  estimate  in  which  she  held  him 
must  be  considered  to  involve  praise  higher  than  could 
be  conceded  by  the  united  commendation  of  all  mankind 
and  of  all  the  angelic  hosts.  This  being  presupposed, 

1  Maria  d'Agreda  tells  us  that  God  revealed  to  Mary  that  He 
designed  her  to  enter  the  state  of  marriage. 


let  us  represent  to  ourselves  Joseph  and  Mary  in  the 
Temple  of  Jerusalem  interchanging  their  mutual  promises 
in  presence  of  the  priests  assembled  to  witness  the  most 
holy,  the  most  necessary,  and  the  most  admirable  matri- 
monial contract  ever  yet  concluded.  The  two  words  of 
consent  which  the  Blessed  Virgin  pronounced  sealed  this 
contract,  and  at  the  same  time  formed  a  more  exalted 
panegyric  than  angels  and  men  united  could  have  awarded 
to  our  saint ;  because  by  this  her  consent  she  published 
that  of  all  men  Joseph  was  the  one  who  deserved  to  be  her 
spouse  ;  that  she  had  chosen  him  from  all  others,  with 
full  premeditation,  employing  in  the  making  of  that  choice 
all  the  virtue  and  supernatural  light  of  her  soul,  together 
with  a  full  and  entire  liberty ;  moved  in  this  election  by 
nothing  save  the  greatness  of  his  merits,  envying  none 
of  her  companions  the  great  alliances  for  which  they 
might  be  destined,  but  much  preferring  this  poor  artisan 
to  all  others,  whatever  might  be  their  worldly  advantages 
and  endowments. 

Such  was  the  glory  accruing  to  Joseph  from  Mary's 
choice  of  him,  but  its  splendour  would  have  been  incom- 
parably increased  if  the  priceless  riches  which  from  that 
moment  he  received  as  the  dowry  which  she  brought 
him  could  have  been  manifested.  Mary,  as  the  daughter 
of  the  Eternal  Father,  had  been  endowed  with  incalculable 
treasures  of  grace ;  and  St.  Bernardino  of  Siena  is  of 
opinion  that  these,  so  far  as  he  was  capable  of  being 
their  recipient,  were  communicated  to  Joseph  when  the 
Blessed  Virgin,  accepting  him  as  her  spouse,  gave  him 
her  heart.  For  we  must  observe,  with  this  holy  preacher, 
that  the  glorious  Virgin  did  not  offer  her  heart  to  Joseph 
simply  that  he  might  know  its  movements  and  thoughts 
better  than  any  one  else,  though  this  was  much — in  fact, 
she  told  St.  Bridget  that  she  was  known  only  to  God 
and  to  Joseph  ;  what  an  inconceivable  honour  ! — but  she 
[also  gave  him  her  heart  as  his  possession.  And  who 


130  ST.    JOSEPH. 

can  form  any  conception  of  what  that  heart  contained  ? 
Solomon  declared  that  it  enclosed  more  interior  riches 
than  did  all  the  just  souls  of  ancient  times:  "Many 
daughters  have  gathered  together  riches ;  thou  hast 
surpassed  them  all ".*  "All  the  treasures  of  God  and  of 
the  Saints  were  in  Mary,"  says  the  Seraphic  Doctor. 
Now  this  precious  dowry  was  conceded  to  Joseph  to  be 
to  him  a  glorious  ornament,  or,  more  strictly  speaking, 
in  order  to  establish  a  suitable  uniformity  in  the  alliance 
about  to  be  contracted ;  that  he  might  sustain  with 
greater  splendour  the  august  dignity  of  Spouse  of  Mary. 

Joseph,  then,  received  in  dowry  a  heart  more  perfect, 
more  pure,  than  that  of  the  angels,  a  heart  full  of  virtues 
and  of  supernatural  gifts,  a  heart  full  of  God.  And  with 
what  completeness  did  Mary  bestow  it !  There  is  no 
question  that  of  all  spouses  the  glorious  Virgin  could 
bestow  herself  with  the  most  absolute  entireness,  for 
never  was  any  so  completely  mistress  of  herself  and  of 
all  her  faculties  as  was  the  Mother  of  God.  Of  all 
marriages,  not  only  was  that  of  Joseph  and  Mary  the 
most  holy  and  most  perfect,  but  the  union  of  heart  was 
more  intimate  than  it  ever  was  in  any  other  marriage. 
Our  Sovereign  Lady  in  giving  her  heart  united  it  so 
closely  with  that  of  Joseph  that  together  they  had  hence- 
forth, as  it  were,  but  one  heart ;  and  the  virtues  and 
heavenly  favours  with  which  these  beautiful  souls  were 
enriched  became,  in  a  manner,  common  to  both.  Speaking 
of  Adam  and  Eve  in  Paradise,  God  said  that  they  should 
be  "  two  in  one  flesh"  ;2  but  of  Joseph  and  Mary  it  might 
be  said  that  they  were  two  in  one  spirit.  "  They  were 
one  spirit,"  says  St.  Ambrose.8  From  the  moment  of 
their  alliance  the  souls  of  Joseph  and  Mary  possessed  one 
same  heavenly  and  divine  life.  The  Holy  Gospel  seems 
to  'favour  this  idea,  speaking  always  of  Joseph  and  Mary 

1  Prov.  xxxi.  29.  2  Gen.  ii.  24.  3  In  Lucam. 


with  the  same  honour  and  as  engaged  in  the  same  occu- 
pations. An  angel  reveals  both  to  one  and  the  other  the 
Sacred  Name  of  Jesus ;  both  have  the  happiness  of  being 
the  first  who  adored  the  Saviour,  kneeling  at  His  crib ; 
together  they  presented  their  Son  at  the.  altar  forty  days 
after  His  birth  ;  together  they  received  Simeon's  blessing. 
Jesus  served  equally  His  father  and  His  mother ;  and, 
to  add  no  more,  God,  who  had  deputed  one  of  the 
highest  angels  as  His  ambassador  to  Mary,  employed 
this  same  exalted  prince  of  Heaven  to  declare  to  Joseph 
the  mystery  of  the  Incarnation.  Amongst  all  that  multi- 
tude of  blessed  spirits  who  encompass  the  throne  of  the 
Most  High,  Gabriel  alone  received  the  commission  to 
treat  with  Joseph  as  with  Mary. 

To  sum  up  what  has  been  said.  The  Blessed  Virgin  in 
accepting  Joseph  as  her  spouse  gave  the  most  splendid 
confirmation  to  the  high  esteem  in  which  his  incompar- 
able virtues  were  held.  She  also  set  the  seal  of  her  free 
consent  to  a  marriage  which  had  been  decreed  in  the 
counsels  of  the  Ever-Blessed  Trinity  and  had  formed  the 
matter  of  solemn  deliberation  on  the  part  of  the  heads  of 
the  Jewish  Church.  It  was  the  flat  of  this  sovereign 

Between  the  betrothal  and  the  marriage  of  Mary  and 
Joseph  a  certain  period,  according  to  the  custom  of  the 
Hebrew  people,  intervened.  It  is  supposed  in  their  case 
to  have  been  two  months,  their  mutual  promises  being 
interchanged  in  November,  and  the  marriage  itself  pro- 
bably taking  place  on  the  23rd  of  January,  when  the 
Church  celebrates  the  feast  of  the  Espousals  of  the  Blessed 

(  132) 



TTTE  must  pause  here  awhile  to  give  a  few  words  of 
VY  consideration  to  the  disputed  question  as  to  the 
age  of  Joseph  at  the  time  of  his  espousals  with  Mary. 
Three  opinions  have  beeri  held ;  one  of  which  would  make 
our  saint  far  advanced  in  years.  This  opinion  was  ac- 
cepted by  some  of  the  Fathers  and  ancient  ecclesiastical 
writers,  chiefly  Greek ;  and  in  support  of  it  has  been 
urged  the  custom  prevailing  among  painters  of  re- 
presenting St.  Joseph  as  an  aged  man,  sometimes  as 
almost  decrepit.  This  view  has,  however,  been  strongly 
opposed,  not  only  because  it  had  no  other  ground  to  rest 
upon  than  the  statements  of  Pseudo-Gospels  which  were . 
current  in  the  third  and  fourth  centuries,  and  were 
coupled  with  the  assertion  that  Joseph  was  a  widower 
with  many  children,  an  assertion  forcibly  condemned  by 
St.  Jerome  and  a  host  of  other  Fathers  and  theological 
writers  down  to  the  present  time's,  but  also  as  in  itself 
presenting  insuperable  difficulties.  As  we  have  already 
observed,  these  apocryphal  writings,  while  probably  re- 
cording some  true  traditionary  facts,  are  entirely  devoid 
of  authority,  and  contain,  moreover,  much  that  we  natu- 
rally reject  as  both  improbable  and  unbefitting. 

In  the  absence,  then,  of  any  authentic  document  on  the 
point,  it  is  reasonable  to  have  recourse  to  arguments 
drawn  from  suitability  and  decorum.  Now,  when  the 

HIS   AGE    AT    THE    ESPOUSALS.  133 

tender  age  of  Mary  at  the  time  of  her  espousals  is 
considered,  and  the  providential  object  of  that  marriage, 
which  was  to  shield  her  reputation  aud  to  hide  for  a  time 
the  mystery  of  the  Incarnation  ;  to  provide  her  also  with 
a  fitting  companion  and  protector,  who  was  to  be  an  aid 
and  a  support  to  her,  especially  during  their  flight  into 
Egypt  and  in  all  the  labours  and  sufferings  which  their 
exile  must  have  entailed ;  it  would  seem  surprising,  not 
to  say  incredible,  in  the  absence  of  any  solid  proof,  to 
suppose  that  it  pleased  God  to  select  for  her  husband  a 
man  weighed  down  by  the  burden  of  years.  Again,  as 
regards  the  evidence  to  be  drawn  of  Joseph's  great  age 
from  pictorial  representations,  we  may  say  that  it  has 
become  quite  valueless  ever  since  patient  research  has 
brought  to  light  monuments  of  much  earlier  date  in  the 
sculptures  and  paintings  of  the  very  first  centuries.  St. 
Joseph,  the  Cavaliere  de  Eossi  tells  us,  is  portrayed  in 
the  most  ancient  marbles  and  ivories  as  very  young  and 
almost  always  beardless.  Later  on,  he  was  given  a  thick 
beard  and  a  more  mature  and  even  aged  appearance.  Of 
the  youthful  representations  he  mentions  many  examples, 
one  of  which  is  even  supposed  to  belong  to  the  sixth 
century.  However,  it  was  in  about  the  fifth  century 
that  the  habit  of  depicting  the  saint  of,  at  least,  a  mature 
age  seems  to  have  commenced.  Clearly,  then,  as  De 
Eossi  observes,  the  most  ancient  monuments,  those  of  the 
third  and  fourth  centuries,  are  so  far  from  following  the 
apocryphal  legend  that,  on  the  contrary,  they  picture  to 
us  the  spouse  of  the  Virgin  in  the  flower  of  his  youth. 
In  the  fifth  century,  when,  without  peril  to  the  canonicity 
of  the  four  Gospels,  artists  might  be  at  liberty,  if  they 
pleased,  to  approximate  to  some  apocryphal  traditions, 
the  practice  of  Christian  art  to  which  allusion  has  been 
made  began  to  prevail.  No  argument,  then,  can  be 
based  upon  this  change  ;  or  rather,  in  the  absence  of  any 
authoritative  document,  the  tradition  of  the  early  Church, 

134  ST.    JOSEPH. 

as  gathered  from  the  monuments  of  Christian  art,  is 
entirely  unfavourable  to  the  belief  that  Joseph  was  an 
old  man.  Thus  they  furnish  support  to  those  reasons  to 
which  we  have  just  adverted,  drawn  from  the  unsuit- 
ability  of  supposing  our  saint  to  have  been  far  advanced 
in  years  at  the  time  of  his  espousals  with  the  Blessed 

This  notion  being  set  aside,  it  remains  for  us  to  choose 
between  the  two  other  views  :  that  is,  whether  St.  Joseph 
was  as  young  as  he  is  represented  in  the  early  monu- 
ments, or  whether  he  had  already  attained  a  mature  age 
at  the  time  of  his  espousals.  In  the  absence  of  all  direct 
evidence,  it  would  seem  that  those  who  have  given  the 
subject  the  fullest  consideration,  and  weighed  and  com- 
pared probabilities,  consider  that  at  the  time  of  his 
marriage  with  Mary  he  was,  most  likely,  approaching  his 
fortieth  year,  and,  therefore,  of  an  age  which  can  be 
reckoned  neither  young  nor  old,  but  in  the  prime  of  his 
strength,  whether  of  mind  or  body. 

Some  remarks  of  Yincenzo  de  Vit,  in  his  Life  of  St. 
Joseph?  are,  we  think,  much  to  the  point  in  this  matter. 
He  is  speaking  of  the  relative  value  of  arguments  drawn 
from  monuments  or  tradition  and  those  which  rest  on 
reasons  of  suitability,  when  it  is  question  of  a  fact  the 
realisation  of  which  depends,  not  on  the  will  of  man,  but 
on  the  will  of  God,  who  disposes  events  in  conformity 
with  His  own  designs.  "When  it  is  question,"  he  says, 
"  of  a  purely  human  fact,  reasons  of  propriety  have  not 
always  the  same  value,  either  for  or  against  our  accept- 
ance of  it,  as  has  the  testimony  of  writers ;  but,  in  the 
present  case,  where  it  is  question  of  a  divine  decree, 
according  to  which,  as  the  holy  Fathers  affirm  and  the 
Church  holds,  the  Son  of  God  was  to  take  human  flesh 
in  the  womb  of  a  married  virgin,  with  the  specific  object 

1  Cap.  v. 



of  hiding  (as  we  have  said)  this  miraculous  conception, 
as  well  as  for  other  reasons  which  we  have  mentioned, 
seeing  there  is  a  total  absence  of  all  divine  authority 
regarding  the  age  of  her  spouse,  reasons  of  propriety 
ought  to  take  precedence  of  depositions  of  human  autho- 
rity, among  which  we  include  the  testimony  of  monu- 
ments. For  here  it  is  no  longer  question  of  verifying  a 
fact  on  the  simple  witness  of  historical  writers  who  were 
not  contemporaneous  with  the  events  they  relate,  but  of 
examining  whether  the  fact  alleged  corresponds  with  the 
object  which  we  know  to  have  been  predetermined  in 
the  counsels  of  God.  For,  if  once  it  be  shown  that  the 
fact  alleged  is  not  suited  to  that  object,  we  are  bound  to 
reject  it."  Applying  this  principle  to  the  question  before 
us,  it  is  clear  that  for  its  solution  we  have  only  to  con- 
sider what  was  the  end  proposed  by  God,  and  the 
adaptation  to  that  end  of  the  means  which  He  thought 
fit  to  employ  for  its  accomplishment ;  namely,  a  marriage 
which  must  be  in  every  respect  a  most  perfect  one. 
Justly  has  it  been  said  that  "  when  Holy  Scripture  has 
in  any  case  recorded  nothing  regarding  the  Virgin" — and 
the  remark  applies  equally  to  St.  Joseph — "all  that 
remains  to  us  is  to  enquire  what  is  most  agreeable  to 
reason.  Authority  which  contradicts  reason  in  such 
cases  is  no  authority  at  all."1 

It  is,  perhaps,  not  difficult  to  conceive  why  painters,  in 
portraying  the  Holy  Family,  should  have  had  a  bias  in 
favour  of  increasing  the  apparent  age  of  St.  Joseph  as 
compared  with  that  of  the  young  Mother.  It  must  be 
borne  in  mind  that  it  is  here  no  question  of  actual  likc- 

1  Auguste  Nicolas,  in  his  work  La  Vierye  Marie,  part  iii.  chap.  liv. 
(Paris,  1858),  attributes  this  remark  to  St.  Augustine,  in  a  sermon  on 
the  Assumption  of  the  Blessed  Virgin.  But  the  editors  of  the  works 
of  that  Father  refer  it  to  an  unknown  author  of  the  tune  of  Charle- 
magne, a  learned  and  pious  writer,  who  drew  largely  from  the 
works  of  St.  Augustine,  and  to  whose  method  of  reasoning  he  was 
certainly  no  stranger. 

136  ST.    JOSEPH. 

ness  of  either  our  Lady,  St.  Joseph,  or  the  Divine  Infant ; 
at  most  these  pictures  embody  an  instinctive  Christian 
tradition,  and  are  figurative  of  prevailing  ideas  rather 
than  representations  of  personal  appearance.  Now,  the 
primary  idea  of  St.  Joseph  is  that  of  the  guardian,  the 
protector,  the  support  of  the  Virgin  Mother,  and  this 
finds  its  natural  expression,  under  the  painter's  brush,  in 
a  marked  difference  of  age,  and  that  to  a  greater  degree 
than  there  is  any  reason  for  believing  to  have  existed. 
Then  there  is  the  typical  and  mystical  view.  St.  Joseph, 
as  putative  father  of  our  Lord,  represents  to  us  (as  we 
have  seen)  the  Person  of  the  Eternal  Father,  the  "  Ancient 
of  Days  ".  We  know  that  God  is  eternally  young,  or 
rather  that  neither  youth  nor  age  can  be  predicated  of 
Him  who  is  the  Self-existing  One,  the  ever-present  Now, 
the  /  am.  Yet,  in  our  impossibility  to  represent  God  as 
He  is,  it  is  our  habit,  when  desiring  to  indicate  the  Person 
of  the  Father,  to  portray  Him  as  a  venerable  and  aged 
man,  thereby  figuring,  not  Himself,  but  His  Paternity. 
Even  so,  it  seems  a  matter  of  course  that  he  who  was 
chosen  to  be  His  representative  on  earth  should  by 
analogy  be  pictorially  portrayed  in  a  similar  manner, 
without  thereby  implying  anything  as  to  the  actual  age 
of  our  saint  at  the  period  in  question.  In  conclusion,  it 
may  be  added  that  we  have  also  the  symbolic  view. 
Gerson  suggests  it  in  the  poem  which  he  wrote  on  the 
holy  patriarch.  Why  was  Joseph  depicted  as  old  ?  It 
was  to  give  us  to  understand  that  he  possessed  the  virtues 
attributed  to  age  :  prudence,  holiness,  and  purity  of  life. 
For  in  the  Book  of  Wisdom  we  read  "  a  spotless  life  is 
old  age".1 

Should  it  be  objected  that  in  the  first  three  or  four 
centuries  a  different  idea  and  type  was  adopted  in  de- 
picting St.  Joseph,  and  that  he  was  represented  as  very 

1  Chap.  iv.  9. 


young,  our  answer  may  be  gathered  from  what  has  already 
been  said.  This  difference  arose  most  probably  from  a 
desire  to  protest  against  the  apocryphal  legends  of  the 
saint's  extreme  old  age.  As  an  argument  against  any 
such  view  the  fact  is  certainly  good,  but  we  must  not 
strain  it  beyond  its  apparent  object.  It  would  not, 
therefore,  be  fair  to  consider  it  also  as  a  disproof  of  what 
has  been  the  persuasion  of  later  ages  and  of  the  present 
time,  namely,  that  St.  Joseph  had  already  attained  to 
mature  years,  and  was  near  to  or  not  very  far  short  -of 
forty,  when  he  was  espoused  to  our  Blessed  Lady.  The 
protest  of  the  first  centuries  was  clearly  a  negative  one  ; 
it  was  a  protest  against  the  assertion  that  the  spouse  of 
Mary  was  in  the  decline  of  his  days  ;  and,  as  it  might  be 
difficult  to  draw  the  precise  line  where  maturity  ap- 
proaches to  decline,  these  early  sculptors  and  painters 
would  be  led  to  give  to  St.  Joseph  an  unmistakable  look 
of  youth  in  order  to  reject  and  condemn  the  fables  con- 
cerning his  advanced  age,  which,  we  must  remember, 
included  also  the  denial  to  him  of  his  aureole  of  virginity. 
For  those  passages  in  the  apochryphal  writings  which 
ascribe  to  Joseph  so  advanced  an  age  assert  also  that  he 
was  a  widower  with  children,  an  idea  equally  repulsive 
to  Catholic  feeling  and  opposed  to  the  tradition  of  the 
Church,  both  East  and  West,  which  from  St.  Jerome  to 
our  own  day  has  united  in  declaring  that  Joseph,  like 
Mary,  was  and  remained  ever  a  virgin.1 

1  F.  Coleridge  is  of  opinion  that  these  writings  were  "  very 
considerably  tampered  with  by  heretical  adulterations.  On  this 
account,"  he  continues,  "the  class  of  literature  to  which  ^ the 
Apocryphal  Gospels  belong  was  under  great  suspicion,  and  it  is 
most  probable  that,  so  to  say,  the  innocent  suffered  with  the  guilty 
in  the  proscription  which  followed,  and  many  a  genuine  morsel  of 
ancient  tradition  was  neglected  and  perished  because  it  could  not 
easily  be  discriminated  from  the  spurious  matter  which  had  grown 
up  around  it.  The  word  apocryphal  is  not  in  its  proper  meaning  a 
word  of  necessarily  bad  import,  for  it  may  be  applied  to  writings  of 
the  most  perfect  orthodoxy  and  the  most  complete  veracity.  But 

138  ST.    JOSEPH. 

Tradition  tells  us  of  the  surpassing  beauty  of  the 
Mother  of  God,  but  scarcely  any  record  has  reached  us 
of  the  personal  appearance  of  St.  Joseph,  if  we  except 
the  testimony  of  St.  Justin  Martyr — followed  or  cor- 
roborated, perhaps  from  additional  sources,  by  Gerson 
and  other  doctors — that  in  beauty  and  in  bodily  appear- 
ance he  was  most  like  to  our  Lord ;  and  this  was 
fitting,  in  order  that  no  suspicion  might  be  entertained 
respecting  his  paternity  or  the  virtue  of  the  mother  of  the 
Divine  Child.  Whence  we  may  gather  that,  next  to 
Jesus  and  Mary,  Joseph  was  the  fairest  of  the  children 
of  men.  But,  apart  from  such  rare  intimations,  we  are 
left  with  nothing  to  draw  upon  but  our  own  imagination, 
or  what  saints  have  told  us  who  have  beheld  him  in  their 
visions.  Now,  although  private  revelations  can  never 
be  quoted  as  authority,  we  cannot  but  regard  them 
with  great  veneration  and  interest  after  they  have  been 
duly  examined  and  tested ;  and  when,  moreover,  they 
happen  to  fall  in  with  our  own  reasonable  conjectures,  we 
feel  that  they  greatly  strengthen  and  support  them. 
"  Whatever  of  direct  divine  communication  these  so- 
called  private  revelations  do  contain,"  says  a  distinguished 
Oratorian  Father  of  our  day,  "  is  the  reward  and  seal  of 
the  ascetic  and  mystic  contemplation  of  the  mysteries  of 
faith."1  That  being  the  case,  how  could  we,  apart  from 
the  possibility,  not  to  say  probability,  of  their  containing 
this  divine  element,  fail  to  set  the  highest  store  by  them 

on  account  of  the  many  dangerous  and  heretical  works  which 
had  been  put  in  circulation  by  the  enemies  of  the  Church,  we  find 
the  Fathers  speaking  more  severely  of  the  whole  class  than  some  of 
its  members  deserved.  It  is  clear  that  to  a  writer,  for  instance,  like 
St.  Jerome  there  was  a  great  temptation  to  reject  and  proscribe  the 
whole  of  a  literature  which  might  still  contain  many  precious  his- 
torical traditions." — The  Preparation  of  the  Incarnation,  p.  234.  (See 
also  Mgr.  Gaume,  Life  of  the  Good  Thief,  M.  de  Lisle's  Translation, 
pp.  9-12.) 

1  F.  Ryder,  Revelations  of  the  After-  World,  "  The  Nineteenth  Cen- 
tury," February,  1887,  p.  289. 


and  immeasurably  prefer  nourishing  our  devotion  with 
them  to  indulging  in  our  own  unaided  fancies  ?  The 
pictures  which  saints  and  other  holy  persons  present  to 
us  are,  surely,  far  more  likely  to  resemble  the  truth  than 
are  such  as  we  can  construct  for  ourselves  ;  and  yet,  in 
the  ordinary  course  of  meditation  on  the  mysteries  of 
our  faith,  pictures  of  some  sort  we  are  constrained  to 
form.  Sister  Maria  d'Agreda,  whose  writings  have  been 
marked  with  high  ecclesiastical  approval,  speaking  of 
Joseph  when  he  was  summoned  to  appear  among  the 
descendants  of  the  race  of  David,  that  one  of  them  might 
be  selected  as  the  spouse  of  Mary,  says  that  he  was  at 
that  time  thirty- three  years  of  age,  was  well-favoured 
in  person  and  of  most  pleasing  aspect,  of  incomparable 
modesty  and  grave  in  demeanour,  and,  above  all,  most 
pure  in  act,  in  thought,  and  in  disposition,  having, 
indeed,  from  the  age  of  twelve  years  made  a  vow  of 
chastity.  He  was  related  in  the  third  degree  to  the 
Blessed  Virgin,  and  his  life  had  been  most  pure  and  holy 
and  irreproachable  in  the  eyes  both  of  God  and  men.1 
This  testimony,  valuable  on  account  of  the  source  from 
which  it  is  derived,  is  also  precious  to  us  as  coinciding 
with  our  own  natural  sentiments  of  suitability  and  pro- 
priety. As  we  felt  to  recoil  from  the  idea  of  a  decrepit 
spouse  for  the  Queen  of  Heaven,  so  also  is  it  hardly  less 
repugnant  to  our  notions  that  he  should  have  been  unpre- 
possessing in  his  appearance.  The  ancient  Joseph,  who 
was  the  type  of  our  saint  and  who  even,  prophetically, 
bore  his  significant  name,  is  described  as  of  "  a  beautiful 
countenance  and  comely  to  behold  ".2  Can  his  proto- 
type have  been  less  personally  favoured,  destined  as  he 
was  for  incomparably  higher  honour  ?  Sister  Emmerich 
likewise  .describes  St.  Joseph  as  having  in  his  whole 
person  an  expression  of  extreme  benignity  and  readiness 

1  Mistica  Citta  di  Dio,  torn.  i.  cap.  xxii.  2  Gen.  xxxix.  6. 

140  ST.    JOSEPH. 

to  be  of  service  to  others.  She  says  he  had  fair  hair. 
That  of  the  Blessed  Virgin,  she  tells  us,  was  most 
abundant,  and  of  a  rich  auburn ;  her  eyebrows  dark  and 
arched;  her  eyes,  which  had  long  black  lashes,  large, 
but  habitually  cast  down ;  her  features  exquisitely 
modelled  ;  while  in  height  she  was  about  the  middle 
stature,  and  she  bore  her  attire,  which  for  the  Espousals 
was  rich  and  becoming — the  Sister  describes  it  in  elabo- 
rate detail — with  much  grace  and  dignity.  St.  Epiphanius, 
quoted  by  Nicephorus,  has  left  us  a  very  similar  portrait 
of  the  holy  Virgin,  of  whose  admirable  beauty  so  many 
other  early  Fathers  speak.  The  saying  of  St.  Denis,  the 
Areopagite,  who  saw  her,  is  well  known  :  that  her  beauty 
was  so  dazzling  that  he  should  have  adored  her  as  a 
goddess  if  he  had  not  known  that  there  is  but  one  God. 
From  a  motive  of  humility  our  Blessed  Lady  would  never 
again  wear  the  robe  in  which,  according  to  Hebrew 
custom,  she  was  clad  upon  that  day.  The  robe  was 
preserved  as  a  precious  treasure  in  Palestine,  whence  it 
was  sent  to  Constantinople  about  the  year  461.  The 
ground  was  of  the  colour  of  nankeen  with  flowers  blue, 
white,  violet,  and  gold.  It  is  now  the  sacred  relic  of 
Chartres,  having  been  given  by  Charles  the  Bald  to  the 
Church  there  in  877.  Many  miracles  have  been  attributed 
to  it.1 

The  nuptial  ring  of  the  Blessed  Virgin  is  still  preserved 
at  Perugia  in  the  Cathedral  Church  of  San  Lorenzo.  The 
people  of  that  city  and  of  Chiusi  are  said  to  have  formerly 
disputed  in  arms  the  possession  of  this  treasure,  nor  was 
the  difference  appeased  save  by  the  decision  of  Sixtus  IV. 
and  Innocent  VIII.2  It  is  related  how,  in  days  long 
past,  a  certain  lady  of  high  rank,  named  Waldrada, 

1  See  Orsini's  Life  of  the  Blessed  Virgin,  part  i.  chap,  vii.,  who  also 
mentions  two  tunics  of  our  Lady  preserved  in  the  East. 

2  Battista  Lauri,  Storia  del  Santo  Anello.     Benedict  XIV. ,  Festa 
dello  Sposalizio  delta  B.  Virgine,  sect.  ii. 


having  had  th  e  rashness  to  place  this  ring  on  her  finger, 
was  punished  by  its  immediately  drying  up.  Others 
have  obtained  great  graces  by  reverently  honouring  the 
holy  relic  on  the  altar  where  it  is  kept.  The  late  august 
Pontiff,  Pius  IX.,  when  he  visited  Perugia  in  1857,  paid 
public  veneration  to  this  ring. 

(  142  ) 


IT1HE  nuptials  of  Mary  and  Joseph  were  solemnised  in 
-L  the  Temple,  and,  after  receiving  the  sacerdotal 
blessing,  the  newly-married  couple  would  be  accompanied 
by  their  relatives  and  friends,  walking  in  procession  with 
music  and  rejoicing  and  the  waving  of  myrtle  and  palm- 
branches,  to  their  abode,  the  house  which  Joachim  and 
Anne  had  occupied  near  the  Probatic  Pool.  Perhaps — for 
this  was  a  Jewish  custom  where  it  was  designed  to  show 
honour — some  of  these  branches  would  be  cast  under  the 
feet  of  the  Blessed  Virgin  and  her  spouse.  Mary  was 
to  have  her  one  scene  of  honour  and  pomp  upon  earth, 
as  her  Divine  Son  was  to  have  His  in  His  descent  from 
the  Mount  of  Olives  on  the  road  to  His  Passion,  when 
He  was  to  espouse  to  Himself  the  Church  upon  the  Cross 
of  Calvary.  The  friends  of  the  bridegroom  and  the  bride 
would  on  their  arrival  partake  of  the  marriage-feast 
which  had  been  prepared  for  them,  an  instance  of  which 
practice  we  see  in  the  marriage  at  Cana  in  Galilee,  where 
the  Mother  of  Jesus  was  present,  to  which  our  Lord, 
as  well  as  His  disciples,  was  invited,  and  which  He 
honoured  with  His  presence  and  first  public  miracle. 

After  the  feast,  and  as  the  sun  went  down,  the  guests 
would  depart,  leaving  the  married  pair  alone  with  God 
and  with  their  good  angels,  who,  we  may  piously  believe, 
were  now  called  to  witness  the  interchange  of  those  secret 
words  which  revealed  the  hitherto  hidden  vows,  of  the 


existence  of  which,  however,  we  have  reason  to  be  well 
persuaded  that  the  Holy  Spirit  had  already  interiorly 
assured  them.  It  was  now,  then,  that,  according  to  the 
opinion  of  Fathers  and  Doctors,  Mary  and  Joseph,  while 
remaining  bound  together  by  the  contract  and  tie  of 
matrimony,  renewed  in  a  solemn  and  absolute  form  their 
respective  vows  of  perpetual  virginity.  And  thus,  while 
continuing  in  the  face  of.  the  law  and  in  verity  husband 
and  wife,  they  were  to  live  together  as  brother  and  sister, 
innocent  and  immaculate,  like  the  angels  of  God  in 
Heaven.  They  might  be  compared  to  a  rose  and  a  lily 
growing  together  in  one  vase.  It  was,  indeed,  an  incom- 
parable marriage,  uniting  all  that  is  sweet  and  pure  in 
the  two  estates  ;  so  that  the  devout  servant  of  Mary  and 
Joseph,  John  Gerson,  speaking  before  the  Council  of 
Constance  of  this  most  pure  marriage,  gave  expression 
to  his  ecstasy,  when  contemplating  it,  by  exclaiming  that 
in  them  virginity  had  espoused  itself.  Nothing  in  this 
marriage  but  what  was  heavenly,  nothing  savouring  of 
earth.  Holy  doctors  (as  has  been  already  observed) 
have  interpreted  the  "sealed  book"  spoken  of  by  Isaias 
the  prophet,1  which  should  be  delivered  to  one  that  is 
learned,  as  the  Blessed  Virgin,  who  is  also  called  "a 
garden  enclosed,  a  fountain  sealed  up," 2  so  that  no  foot 
of  man  should  enter  the  former  or  profane  hand  invade 
the  waters  of  the  latter,  and  that  it  was  to  Joseph  that 
this  book  was  given.  And  when  was  it  given?  No 
doubt  it  was  on  the  solemn  day  of  his  espousals  with 
Mary  that  Joseph  had  this  mystical  book  committed  into 
his  keeping.  The  book  was  the  symbol  of  Mary's 
virginity,  and  it  was  given  to  the  most  pure  Joseph  in 
order  that  he  might  guard  it  in  his  virginal  hands.  And 
Joseph,  knowing  before  his  espousals  that  the  Blessed 
Virgin  had  consecrated  her  virginity  to  God,  understood 

1  Chap.  xxix.  11.  2  Canticles  iv.  12. 

144  ST.    JOSEPH. 

the  mystery  of  the  sealed  book,  and  received  it  into  his 
custody  only  to  respect  and  to  guard  it. 

Let  us  listen  to  the  great  Bishop  of  Geneva  on  the 
subject  of  Joseph's  virginity.  "  In  what  degree,"  he  says, 
"  may  we  suppose  that  Joseph  possessed  holy  virginity, 
a  virtue  which  assimilates  us  to  the  angels,  if  the  Blessed 
Virgin  was,  not  only  the  most  perfectly  pure  and  spotless 
Virgin,  but,  as  the  Church  sings,  Virginity  itself,  Sancta 
et  Immaculata  Virginitas  1  How  highly  exalted  in  this 
virtue  must  he  have  been  whom  the  Eternal  Father 
chose  as  the  guardian  of  her  virginity,  or,  rather  I  might 
say,  as  its  companion ;  how  great,  I  repeat,  must  he 
have  been  in  this  virtue  !  Both  had  made  a  vow  to 
preserve  virginity  during  their  whole  lives,  and  behold  ! 
God  wills  that  they  should  be  joined  in  the  bands  of  a 
holy  marriage,  not  that  they  might  unsay  their  vow  or 
repent  of  it,  but  to  confirm  them  in  it,  and  that  they 
might  be  a  mutual  support  in  carrying  out  their  holy 
enterprise  ;  for  this  reason  they  now  renewed  their  vow 
to  live  together  as  virgins  for  the  remainder  of  their 
lives."  * 

But  here  some  doubts  may  arise.  If  these  two  most 
holy  spouses  were  already  confirmed  in  grace  and  free 
from  all  incentives  to  evil,  which  in  the  one  had  never 
existed  and  in  the  other  had  by  a  singular  privilege  been 
extinguished  or  suppressed ;  if,  albeit  conditionally,  they 
had  both  of  them  promised  God  to  observe  perpetual  vir- 
ginity, what  need  was  there  for  them  to  bind  themselves 
anew  by  an  absolute  vow  to  preserve  in  holy  matrimony 
this  unspotted  lily  of  virginity  ?  Were  they  inspired  by 
God  to  do  so  ?  We  cannot  doubt  it.  For,  indeed,  they 
never  did  anything  without  diligently  taking  counsel  of 
God,  and  God  sent  His  angels  to  assure  them  of  His  good 
pleasure.  If,  then,  this  act  was  prompted  by  God,  was 

1  Eiitretien,  xix. 


pleasing  to  God,  was  accepted  by  God,  without  doubt  it 
was  of  great  advantage  to  themselves,  and  of  profit  to  us ; 
not  that  they  feared  lest  they  might  fail  in  their  holy 
resolve  unless  they  bound  themselves  by  this  vow,  for 
through  divine  grace  they  were  already  most  firm  in 
their  determination,  but  because,  being  two  most  holy 
creatures,  emulous  of  the  highest  perfection,  and  aware 
that  the  works  of  perfection  are  the  more  acceptable 
to  God  and  have  the  greater  merit  and  reward  if 
performed  by  vow,  partaking  as  they  then  do  of  the 
virtue  of  religion,  they,  in  order  that  their  virginity 
might  be  pleasing  to  God  in  the  highest  degree,  re- 
solved to  consecrate  and  give  it  to  Him  by  an  absolute 
and  solemn  vow,  as  in  fact  they  did.  And  thus  Mary 
and  Joseph,  possessing  all  the  graces  and  gifts  of  the 
conjugal  state,  were  by  their  vow  to  have  at  the  same 
time  all  the  privileges  and  rare  excellencies  of  virginity. 
It  could  not  be  that  they  should  be  deprived  of  this 
signal  glory. 

Then,  as  respects  the  profit  to  us.  Mary  was  to  be 
proposed  for  all  future  ages  as  the  example,  the  mirror, 
and  the  model  of  all  women,  high  and  low,  married  and 
virgins,  and  especially  of  those  who  should  consecrate 
themselves  to  God  by  a  perpetual  vow.  And  what  is 
said  of  Mary  as  respects  women  must,  in  due  proportion, 
be  said  of  Joseph  in  regard  to  men.  Joseph,  so  perfect 
before  God,  was  to  serve  as  an  example  and  a  model  to 
all  men,  virgins  as  well  as  married,  and  particularly  to 
those  who  have  vowed  perpetual  chastity.  He,  too,  was 
to  be  the  first  among  men  to  make  this  generous  and 
solemn  vow,  in  order  to  become,  as  the  Church  styles  him, 
the  guardian  of  virgins  and  their  great  patriarch ;  and, 
in  fact,  the  sublime  example  of  Mary  and  Joseph  drew 
numbers  of  saints  of  the  New;  Law  to  follow  in  their 
steps,  and  oblige  themselves,  by  vow,  to  lead  a  virginal 
life  even  in  the  state  of  holy  matrimony,  who  have  been 


146  ST.    JOSEPH. 

held  forth  in  ecclesiastical  history  as  the  admiration  and 
marvel  of  the  world. 

Such,  then,  were  the  chief  reasons   why  these  two 
most  holy  spouses,  although  confirmed  in  grace,  took  an 
absolute  and  formal  vow  of  perpetual  virginity  after  the 
celebration  of  their  marriage ;  and  this  is  the  common 
opinion  of  Fathers  and  Doctors.     But,  if  they  had  made 
a  vow  before  their  marriage,  and,  not  content  with  this, 
solemnly  renewed  it  subsequently  from  their  love  of  holy 
virginity,  how,  it  may  be  asked,  can  their  marriage  be 
reckoned  true  and  valid?     Is  not  the  vow  of  virginity 
directly  opposed  to  the  chief  end  of  holy  matrimony  ? 
Before  applying  ourselves  to  the  solution  of  this  difficulty, 
we  may  observe  that  St.  Thomas  teaches  that  all  that  is 
essential  to  matrimony  is  that,  between  those  who  legiti- 
mately contract  it,  there  should  be  mutual  consent  and 
mutual  engagement  of  fidelity.1      It  is  certain,   as  St. 
Augustine  says,  that  those  are  still  true  spouses  who, 
after  being  lawfully  united  in  marriage,  resolve  in  their 
hearts  to  remain  ever  virgins.     And  the  same  Augustine 
denounces  the  heretic  Julian,  of  the  sect  of  the  Pelagians, 
who  openly  denied  the  truth  of  the  marriage  between 
Mary  and  Joseph.     This  being  premised,  we  may  further 
observe  that  it  is  clear  from  more  than  one  passage  in 
the  Holy  Gospel  that  Mary  was  truly  Joseph's  wife,  and 
Joseph  truly  Mary's  husband,  for  she  is  expressly  called 
the  wife  of  Joseph,  as  Joseph  is  called  the  husband  of 
Mary.2     If  Joseph  be  sometimes  styled  by  the  Fathers 
simply  the  guardian,  not  the  husband,  of  Mary,  this  way 
of  speaking  was  not  intended  to  exclude  the  reality  of 
the  matrimonial  bond  which  united  them,  but  only  to 
rebut  any  possible   surmise  which  might  arise  against 
their  virginal  purity. 

1  Summa,  p.  in.  q.  xxix.  a.  2. 
2  St.  Matthew  i.  16,  19,  20,  24  ;  St.  Luke  ii.  5. 


But  to  return  to  the  difficulty  suggested  respecting 
the  vows.  St.  Augustine,  St.  Thomas,  and  the  Master 
of  the  Sentences,  not  to  mention  others,  firmly  hold  that 
Mary  and  Joseph  took  two  vows  of  virginity ;  the  first 
mental,  simple,  and  conditional,  that  is,  dependent  on 
God  not  disposing  otherwise.  This  vow  was  taken  by 
each  long  before  their  union.  The  second  vow  was 
absolute,  perpetual,  and  without  limitation,  and  followed 
immediately  on  their  marriage.  Neither  of  these  vows, 
however,  could  invalidate  it.  Not  the  first, '  because 
simple  and  conditional,  and  such  vows  never  invalidate 
marriage,  which  a  solemn  vow  alone  can  render  void. 
Neither  can  it  be  urged  that,  since  it  was  a  promise,  it 
was  not  lawful  to  break  it ;  for  it  was  a  conditional 
promise,  and  the  condition  depended  on  God,,  who  was 
pleased  to  release  the  two  holy  spouses  from  all  previous 
promise,  and,  therefore,  from  all  obligation.  It  is  certain, 
also,  that  Mary  and  Joseph  merited  greatly  by  their 
obedience  to  what  God  had  thus  ordained  ;  for,  had  not 
He  decreed  their  union,  they  would  have  willingly 
remained  in  their  solitary  virginal  state. 

If  the  previous  vow  had  no  power  to  nullify  the 
validity  and  reality  of  their  marriage,  still  less  could 
their  subsequent  vow,  although  absolute  and  ur  limited. 
The  contract  was  effected,  the  knot  was  tied  ;  no  sub- 
sequent disposition,  however  holy,  could  dissolve  or 
break  that  holy  matrimonial  bond  ;  it  could  only 
strengthen  it  by  rendering  it  more  holy.  Everyone  is 
at  liberty  to  deny  himself  in  regard  to  what  belongs  to 
him.  Such  a  denial  does  not  deprive  him  of  the  right  of 
his  own  property.  You  may  own  an  enclosed  garden 
without  culling  or  appropriating  to  yourself  one  of  its 
flowers,  and  make  an  offering  of  all  to  God's  altar. 
Mary  did  not  cease  to  be  Joseph's  spouse  because  she 
had  bound  herself  by  a  vow  of  virginity,  nor  did  Joseph 
cease  to  be  the  true  husband  of  Mary  because  he  had 

148  ST.    JOSEPH. 

consecrated  to  God  his  virginal  purity.  Thus  a  true 
marriage  subsisted  between  them  by  mutual  consent  not- 
withstanding their  vow,  and  all  the  more  sublime  in  that 
it  was  more  pure.  The  Church  has  always  held  such 
marriages  to  be  true  marriages,  although  accompanied 
by  virginity,  as  we  see  in  the  examples  of  St.  Thecla, 
St.  Cecilia,  the  Emperor  St.  Henry  of  Germany,  St. 
Edward  the  Confessor,  and  many  other  saints.  How, 
then,  shall  we  not  hold  as  true,  and  most  valid,  the 
virginal  marriage  of  Joseph  and  Mary?  The  proofs 
alleged  by  St.  Thomas  are  irrefragable. 

It  may  be  further  asked,  if  Jesus,  who  was  essential 
purity,  willed  to  be  born  of  a  virgin,  why  did  He  will 
that  she  should  also-  be  married  ?  This  question  has  also 
been  fully  treated  by  St.  Thomas,  who  has  given  many 
reasons.  Some  of  these  have  already  been  indicated  by 
anticipation.  Jesus,  when  born  into  the  world,  must  be 
born  according  to  the  appearances  of  the  world.  His 
genealogy  from  Abraham, ' Juda,  and  David  must  also  be 
clearly  established ;  and  a  genealogy  with  the  Hebrews 
was  always  traced  on  the  father's  side,  the  mother's, 
indeed,  being  (generally  speaking)  of  the  same  descent 
and  tribe  ;  wherefore  St.  Jerome  says  that  Jesus  was 
conceived  of  a  married  virgin,  in  order  that  by  Joseph's 
origin  Mary's  might  be  proved.  It  was  also  needful  to 
hide  the  mystery  from  the  profane,  and  also  from  the 
devil;,  against  this  adversary  Jesus  had  a  shield  in 
Joseph  ;  for,  if  Satan  had  discovered  his  vanquisher  in 
the  Babe  of  Bethlehem,  he  would  at  once  have  begun  to 
wage  fierce  war  against  Him.  Again,  it  was  needful  (as 
already  observed)  to  guard  Mary  from  dishonouring  im- 
putations on  the  part  of  those  who  were  ignorant  of  the 
mystery,  and  from  the  penalties  of  the  law,  as  also  in 
order  that  she  should  be  protected,  maintained,  sup- 
ported, and  consoled  in  toils  and  sufferings,  especially 
during  the  flight  into  Egypt.  To  these  reasons  it  must 


be  added  that  in  Joseph  she  would  have  an  additional 
and  unimpeachable  witness  that  Jesus  was  conceived 
without  an  earthly  father,  and  by  the  sole  power  of  the 
Holy  Ghost ;  and  more  credit  would  be  given  to  her  own 
declaration  of  her  virginity,  because,  as  St.  Ambrose 
observes,  if  a  virgin  who  is  unmarried  becomes  a  mother, 
it  .will  certainly  be  assumed  that  in  affirming  her  virginity 
she  lies ;  but  a  married  woman  in  such  case  has  no  in- 
ducement to  lie,  since  it  is  in  the  order  of  nature  that  a 
married  woman  should  have  children.  A  mystical  reason 
may  also  be  given  for  this  holy  marriage  ;  for  the  virgin 
espoused  to  the  most  pure  Joseph  was  to  be  the  type  and 
figure  of  the  Church,  who  was  espoused  as  a  virgin  to  a 
virginal  Spouse,  that  is,  to  Jesus  Christ,  as  St.  Augustine 
says.  Finally,  in  the  person  of  Mary  and  Joseph  the 
virginal  and  conjugal  states  were  severally  approved, 
sanctified,  and  glorified  against  ancient  and  modern 
heretics,  who  have  furiously  assaulted  both  the  vows  of 
virginity  and  the  sacrament  of  matrimony. 

Nor  let  it  be  objected  that  this  marriage  of  Mary  and 
Joseph  tended  to  hide  and  veil  from  men  the  virginity  of 
Mary,  since  this  was  the  one  chief  object  and  desire  of 
these  two  holy  spouses;  that  is,  while  jealously  guarding 
and  cultivating  virginity,  to  withdraw  it  from  the  observa- 
tion of  men  and  from  their  esteem,  hiding  it  through 
humility  under  the  veil  of  matrimony,  that  they  might 
not  be  regarded  as  singular.  Let  us  listen  again  to  St. 
Francis  de  Sales  speaking  of  St.  Joseph,  and  what  he 
says  applies  with  still  greater  force  to  Mary :  "  Joseph 
was  very  specially  careful  to  keep  the  precious  pearl  of 
his  virginity  concealed ;  for  this  reason  he  consented  to 
bind  himself  in  marriage,  so  that  no  one  should  come  to 
know  it,  and  that  under  the  shelter  of  marriage  he  might 
live  concealed.  Whereby  virgins,  both  men  and  women, 
who  desire  to  live  in  chastity  are  instructed  that  it  is  not 
sufficient  to  be  virgins,  but  they  must  also  be  humble." 

150  ST.    JOSEPH. 

The  virginity  of  Mary,  according  to  the  Divine  counsels, 
was  to  remain  concealed  until  the  preaching  of  Christ, 
which  was  to  manifest  His  Divinity  ;  and  until  that  time 
arrived,  Joseph,  like  the  veil  of  the  Temple,  was  to  hide 
from  the  profane  the  Holy  of  Holies  ;  but,  the  propitious 
moment  being  come,  the  mysterious  veil  was  withdrawn, 
and  the  virginity  of  Mary  was  displayed  in  all  its 
splendour.  It  was  proclaimed  by  Apostles,  declared  by 
Evangelists,  and  thenceforth  glorified  throughout  the 
world  by  holy  doctors.  And,  along  with  the. virginity  of 
Mary,  the  virginity  of  Joseph  began  by  degrees  to  shine 
forth  also,  so  that  no  one  can  say  that  the  reality  of  the 
marriage  between  Mary  and  Joseph  can  in  any  way  have 
effaced  or  obscured  the  belief  of  their  stainless  purity. 
That  thought  can  only  arise  in  the  minds  of  carnal  men, 
who  (as  the  Apostle  tells  us l)  discern  not  the  things  that 
are  of  the  Spirit  of  God. 

If  any  one  should  ask,  would  not  a  richer  and  more 
powerful  spouse  have  been  more  suitable  for  our  Sovereign 
Lady,  the  reply  is  not  far  to  seek.  It  is  not  power  or 
riches  which  attract  the  eyes  of  God.  It  is  virtue,  recti- 
tude, humility,  poverty,  and  sanctity  of  life.  Joseph  was 
given  to  Mary  as  her  spouse  because  he  possessed 
immense  treasures  of  grace  and  of  holiness,  such  as  might 
have  excited  the  envy  of  the  celestial  intelligences,  be- 
cause his  singular  endowments  had  rendered  him  pre- 
eminent above  all,  and  because  before  God  he  occupied  a 
more  elevated  and  sublime  position  than  that  of  all  the 
kings  of  the  earth.  The  Virgin  was  confided,  not  to  the 
most  powerful,  but  to  the  worthiest,  not  to  the  richest, 
but  to  the  holiest ;  like  to  the  Ark  of  the  Lord,  which 
was  a  figure  of  Mary,  and  was  placed,  not  in  the  palace 
of  kings,  but  under  the  lowly  roof  and  in  the  charge  of  a 
simple  Gethite,  Obededom,  upon  whose  house,  in  con- 

1  1  Cor.  ii.  14. 


sequence,  all  the  blessings  of  Heaven  were  showered.1  It 
is  manifest  also  that  Jesus,  coming  into  the  world  to  con- 
demn pride,  arrogance,  and  the  ill-acquired  riches  of 
men,  willed  that  His  most  holy  Mother  and  His  foster- 
father  should  give  the  first  example  of  a  life,  poor,  frugal, 
modest,  and  laborious,  such  as  might  rebuke  the  insolent 
pride  of  the  worldly,  and  be  an  abiding  example  and 
consolation  to  those  who  are  placed  in  a  poor  and  humble 
condition  of  life. 

1  2  Kings  vi.  10,  11 ;   1  Paralip.  xiii.  13,  14. 

(  152  ) 


TTITHEBTO  we  have  been  considering  Joseph  as  a 
11  young  man,  and  living  alone ;  we  have  now  to 
regard  him  as  he  was  in  maturer  years,  and  in  the  com- 
pany of  the  Blessed  Virgin,  to  which  was  soon  to  be 
added  the  company  of  the  Son  of  God  Himself,  Christ 
Jesus.  Up  to  this  period  tjie  virtues  of  Joseph,  although 
excellent  and  sublime,  were  private  and  hidden  virtues, 
known  only  to  the  narrow  circle  in  which  he  abode,  but 
henceforward  those  virtues  are  to  emerge  into  the  light 
of  day,  and  at  length  to  become  known  to  the  uttermost 
parts  of  the  earth  below  and  the  heaven  above.  Erom 
constant  association  with  Jesus,  and  Mary,  the  virtues  of 
Joseph  acquired  so  brilliant  and  dazzling  a  lustre  as  to 
be  surpassed  only  by  the  sovereign  splendours  of  the 
virtues  of  Jesus  and  Mary.  Joseph,  become  the  foster- 
father  and  guardian  of  Jesus,  the  spouse  and  protector  of 
Mary,  becomes,  in  consequence,  the  guardian  and  patron 
of  the  whole  Church. 

We  left  the  holy  spouses  at  Jerusalem,  in  their  abode 
near  the  Probatic  Pool.  There,  however,  they  did  not 
long  remain,1  but  went  to  establish  themselves  in 

1  It  would  appear,  from  the  view  taken  by  Canon  Vitali,  that 
Mary  and  Joseph  remained  some  time  at  Jerusalem,  as  though  un- 
certain at  first  whether  they  would  not  reside  there,  and  after  their 
removal  spent  the  following  winter  months  at  Nazareth.  If  their 
marriage  was  solemnised  on  the  23rd  of  January — and  he  expressly 
states  his  belief  that  it  was  so,  the  Betrothal  having  taken  place, 


Nazareth,  where  the  Blessed  Virgin  owned  a  small 
house,  inherited  from  her  parents,  along  with  some 
slender  possessions  in  Sephora  and  in  Carmel.  What 
were  the  reasons  which  induced  their  removal  we  cannot 
know  for  certain.  No  doubt  they  sought  counsel  of  God 
in  prayer  before  taking  this  step,  to  which  they  may 
have  been  prompted  by  the  painful  feelings  which  the 
degeneracy  of  the  Holy  City  excited  in  them,  as  well  as 
by  the  rise  of  the  malicious  sects  of  Herodians,  Sadducees, 
and  Pharisees,  and  the  spread  of  their  false  corrupting 
doctrines^  not  to  speak  of  the  cruel  jealousy  of  Herod, 
which  every  day  increased,  displaying  itself,  not  against 
his  subjects  only,  but  against  his  own  wife  and  children, 
whom  he  mercilessly  put  to  death.  Mary  and  Joseph, 
being  of  the  house  and  family  of  David,  might,  therefore, 
have  just  cause  to  dread  becoming  in  some  way  the 
objects  of  his  malevolent  suspicions.  Be  this  as  it  may, 
we  have  good  reason  to  believe  that  the  holy  spouses 
never  contemplated  retaining  the  whole  of  the  patrimony 
which  Mary  inherited  from  her  parents,  and  which, 

according  to  him,  in  the  previous  November — this  would  remove 
the  Annunciation  to  more  than  a  year  after  their  nuptials  ;  a  sup- 
position, we  imagine,  quite  at  variance  with  the  general  belief. 
Maria  d'Agreda  says  that  the  Annunciation  was  six  months  after  the 
marriage  ;  in  which  case  the  Espousals  on  the  23rd  of  January 
would  have  been  the  Betrothal,  the  marriage  itself,  according  to 
her,  being  celebrated  in  the  September  following,  the  month  of  the 
Blessed  Virgin's  Nativity.  Having,  however,  laid  down  to  ourselves 
the  rule  not  to  refer  either  for  dates,  or  for  the  sequence  of  events, 
or  any  other  matter  of  historical  importance,  to  the  revelations  of 
saints,  but  simply,  from  time  to  time,  to  enrich  and  supplement 
the  narrative  with  the  pictures  of  what  they  saw  in  vision  and  have 
made  known  to  us  for  our  spiritual  edification,  we  shall  dismiss  her 
view  without  discussion.  That  of  Canon  Vitali,  we  must  own, 
seems  to  us  scarcely  admissible  ;  and,  as  he  alleges  110  authority 
whatever  in  its  favour,  we  have  felt  at  liberty  to  disregard  it.  If 
Mary  and  Joseph  left  Jerusalem  for  Nazareth  immediately,  or 
almost  immediately,  after  their  marriage,  that  would  allow  the 
space  of  two  months  to  elapse  between  their  nuptials  and  the 
Annunciation,  a  view  more  agreeable,  we  believe,  to  Catholic  feeling 
and  tradition. 

154  ST.    JOSEPH. 

moderate  as  it  was,  would  probably  have  sufficed  to 
raise  them  above  the  level  of  actual  poverty.  These  two 
ardent  lovers  of  virginity  were  also  lovers  of  poverty, 
which  they  thus  embraced  by  their  voluntary  act.  Maria 
d'Agreda  says  that  immediately  after  their  marriage  they 
divided  what  they  possessed  into  three  portions,  one  of 
which  they  gave  to  the  Temple,  one  they  distributed  to 
the  poor,  and  the  third  remained  in  the  hands  of  Joseph 
for  his  administration,  our  Lady  reserving  to  herself  the 
office  of  waiting  on  her  holy  spouse  and  performing  all 
household  work  ;  for  the  same  favoured  soul  tells  us  that 
never  did  Mary  interfere  in  external  business,  neither 
would  she  buy  or  sell ;  money,  in  short,  never  passed 
through  her  pure  hands.  Joseph  was  thus  installed  as 
head  of  the  family,  in  the  office  of  steward  and  adminis- 
trator of  the  goods  of  what  might  truly  be  called  God's 
house.  The  third  portion  of  Mary's  inheritance,  which 
had  been  reserved,  consisted  chiefly,  no  doubt,  of  their 
humble  house  at  Nazareth,  whither  they  were  about  to 
retire,  and  where  soon  was  to  be  accomplished  the  great 
mystery  of  the  Incarnation. 

We  have  seen  how  St.  Joseph  during  his  youth  had 
exercised  the  trade  of  a  carpenter.  He  now,  we  are  told 
by  a  great  contemplative,  asked  our  Lady  if  she  wished 
him  to  continue  it  for  her  service,  in  order  besides  to 
have  something  to  give  to  the  poor,  and  also  because  it 
was  well  not  to  lead  an  idle  and  unemployed  life.  Of 
this  the  most  prudent  Virgin  approved,  telling  him  that 
the  Lord  did  not  wish  them  to  be  rich,  but  poor,  and 
lovers  of  the  poor  and  the  refuge  of  the  poor,  so  far  as 
their  means  extended.  Then — Maria  d'Agreda,  whom  we 
quote,  tells  us — there  arose  a  holy  contest  between  the 
two  blessed  spouses  as  to  which  of  them  was  to  regard  and 
treat  the  other  as  superior.  Joseph  in  his  humility 
esteemed  himself  as  all  unworthy  of  the  treasure  which 
had  been  committed  to  his  charge  ;  and  so  great  was  his 

LIFE    AT    NAZAKETH.  155 

veneration  for  Mary  that  he  would  have  desired  to  take 
the  place  of  her  servant,  seeking  only  to  know  and  obey 
her  will  in  everything.  She,  however,  who  amongst  the 
humble  'superexcelled  in  humility,  was  the  conqueror  in 
this  loving  strife  ;  for  the  most  holy  Mary  would  not 
consent  that,  the  man  being  the  head,  the  natural  order 
should  be  inverted,  so  that  it  was  her  will  to  obey  in  all 
things  her  spouse  Joseph,  asking  him  only  to  allow  her 
to  give  alms  to  the  poor  of  the  Lord,  to  which  the  Saint 
willingly  agreed.  It  was  a  great  sacrifice  to  Joseph  to 
have  thus  to  assume  the  place  due  to  him  as  husband, 
and  in  doing  so  he,  on  his  part,  was  practising  the  virtue 
of  obedience,  even  as  Mary  was  on  hers.  The  two- 
spouses  were,  therefore,  perfectly  fulfilling  the  three 
evangelical  counsels  of  chastity,  poverty,  and  obedience. 
The  Santa  Casa,  now  miraculously  transported  to 
Loreto,  was,  like  the  Nazareth  houses  in  general,  very 
small ;  and,  as  was  the  case  with  many  of  them  likewise, 
it  was  built  against  the  rock,  with  an  opening  into  a 
cave  or  grotto  at  the  back.1  On  the  one  side  was  an 
apartment  in  the  rock,  which  to  this  day  bears  the  name 
of  the  kitchen  of  the  Madonna ;  on  the  other,  at  a  very 
short  distance,  was  what  is  still  by  tradition  called  the 
workshop  of  St.  Joseph.  The  walls  of  the  Santa  Casa, 
wherein  Mary  had  herself  been  born,  and  where  she 
must  have  dwelt  until  taken  to  the  Temple  by  her 
parents,  were  bare  and  unadorned,  but  we  may  be  .sure 
that  her  hands  had  soon  placed  everything  in  order,  and, 
though  there  was  nothing  superfluous,  the  little  they 
possessed  was  arranged  with  that  neatness,  modesty, 
and  simplicity  which  invests  a  poor  abode  with  a  charm 
often  wanting  in  the  luxurious  apartments  of  the  rich. 

1  See  Loreto  and  Nazareth,  by  the  late  Father  Hutchison  of  the 
London  Oratory,  where  will  be  found  a  full  description  both  of  the 
Santa  Casa  and  of  the  sanctuary  at  Nazareth.  It  may  here  be 
observed  that  what  has  been  miraculously  removed  formed  only  a, 
portion  of  the  abode  occupied  or  used  by  the  Holy  Family. 

156  ST.    JOSEPH. 

Mary  had  no  servant,  so  that  all  the  domestic  work  was 
performed  by  herself ;  and,  as  there  was  no  water  in 
Nazareth  save  at  one  fountain,  distant  about  a  quarter 
of  a  mile  from  their  abode,  the  Blessed  Virgin,  with  her 
water-pot  on  her  head,  might  have  been  seen,  like  one  of 
the  daughters  of  the  ancient  patriarchs,  going  daily  to 
draw  water  at  the  well  for  the  supply  of  the  house — 
lovely  as  Eachel,  bashful  as  Eebecca  in  her  whole  person 
and  bearing,  or,  rather,  immeasurably  surpassing  in 
beauty  and  modesty  all  the  daughters  of  Eve.  The 
fountain  was  afterwards  called  by  her  name.  Sometimes 
she  would  repair  thither  with  a  companion  to  wash  the 
household  linen,  and  Joseph,  beholding  her  thus  industri- 
ously employed,  while  thanking  GLod  in  his  inmost  soul 
for  having  given  him  for  his  spouse,  not  a  woman,  but  an 
angel  of  Paradise,  grieved  to  see  her,  the  daughter  of 
kings  and  worthy  of  all  the  thrones  of  the  earth,  thus 
abasing  herself  to  toil  fit  only  for  menials.  Within  the 
house,  likewise,  she  never  remained  idle.  She  plied  the 
needle  and  the  spindle,  as  she  had  been  wont  to  do  in  the 
Temple,  and  her  exquisite  workmanship  helped  to  pro- 
cure the  necessaries  of  life.  Maria  d'Agreda,  in  her 
Revelations,  has  drawn  out  a  marvellous  parallel  between 
her  and  the  "valiant  woman"  of  the  Proverbs,1  whom 
we  may  regard  as  the  mystical  type  of  Mary,  as  well 
as  the  example  proposed  to  all  women,  but  so  ill  fol- 
lowed by  the  greater  number,  especially  in  these  soft 
degenerate  days. 

But  first  and  foremost  was  her  solicitude  to  minister 
assiduously  to  the  wants  and  wishes  of  Joseph.  She 
diligently  prepared  their  simple  meal  and  placed  it  on  their 
little  table,  which  had  been  made,  we  are  told,  by  the 
saint  himself.  Here  were  no  rich  viands  or  dishes  of 
silver  and  gold.  All  spoke  of  modesty,  economy,  frugality. 
There  was  sufficient  to  support  life,  but  no  dainties  to 

1  Prov.  xxxi.  10-31. 

LIFE    AT   NAEARETH.  157 

excite  greed.  There  was  peace  and  charity  at  that  board. 
It  was  the  "  dinner  of  herbs"  described  in  the  Proverbs. 
"  Better,"  says  the  Wise  Man,  "  is  a  little  with  the  fear 
of  the  Lord  than  great  treasures  without  content.  It  is 
better  to  be  invited  to  herbs  with  love,  than  to  a  fatted 
calf  with  hatred."  1  And  if  at  that  table  there  sat  no 
company  of  noble  guests,  there'  was  a  band  of  heavenly 
spirits  in  attendance,  sent  by  God  to  aid,  guard,  and 
comfort  the  holy  spouses.  The  words  which  Joseph 
addressed  to  Mary  were  simple  and  brief,  and  brief  and 
simple  were  her  replies,  but  full  of  ravishing  gentleness 
and  sweetness.  He  seemed  to  be  listening  to  an  angel, 
or  to  more  than  an  angel.  Esteeming  the  virtues  of  her 
of  whom  God  had  made  him  the  most  fortunate  spouse 
to  be  superhuman  and  heavenly,  his  respect  was  so  great 
that  it  could  not  but  manifest  itself  in  his  whole  be- 
haviour. He  could  scarcely  address  her  without  inclin- 
ing his  head  as  to  his  lady  and  queen ;  and  in  all  his 
words  and  actions  there  would  never  have  been  detected 
the  slightest  sign  of  that  innocent  freedom  which  com- 
monly exists  between  good  and  virtuous  spouses.  Let 
us  hear  what  St.  Bridget  tells  us  our  Lady  said  to  her 
about  her  holy  spouse.  "  Joseph  was  so  reserved  in  his 
words,"  said  Mary,  "  that  none  ever  came  from  his 
mouth  which  were  not  good  and  holy,  none  that  were 
idle  or  complaining.  He  was  most  patient  and  diligent 
in  labour,  most  meek  under  injuries,  most  attentive  to 
my  every  word,  strong  and  constant  against  my  adver- 
saries, a  faithful  witness  of  the  wonders  of  God,  dead  to 
the  flesh  and  to  the  world,  alive  only  to  God  and  to 
heavenly  goods,  which  alone  he  desired,  conformed  to 
the  Divine  will,  and  so  resigned  to  it  that  he  was  con- 
stantly saying :  '  Let  the  will  of  God  be  done  in  me ; 
may  I  live  as  long  as  it  is  pleasing  to  God,  that  I  may 
see  His  Divine  will  fulfilled'.  He  seldom  conversed 
1  Ibid.  xv.  16,  17. 

158  ST.    JOSEPH. 

with  men,  but  continually  with  God,  whose  will  alone  he 
wished  to  do;  wherefore  he  now  enjoys  great  glory  in 

Joseph  knew,  says  the  pious  and  learned  Gerson,  that 
he  was  the  head  of  Mary,  because  the  husband  is  the 
head  of  the  wife.  Nevertheless,  his  veneration  for  her 
was  so  profound  that  he  considered  himself  unworthy  to 
be  her  companion,  or  even  to  kiss  the  ground  on  which 
she  had  trod ;  and  he  was  always  on  the  watch,  to  render 
her  some  service,  albeit  unrequested,  even  as  might  some 
most  devoted  servant  rather  than  spouse.  And  then  he 
loved  her  so  exceedingly,  with  a  love  like  what  the 
heavenly  spirits  feel  for  each  other,  and  would  have 
readily  given  his  heart's  blood  for  her  :  and  as  yet  he 
knew  not  her  incomparable  dignity !  Yes,  he  loved  her 
exceedingly,  and  we  may  hold  for  certain  that  Joseph,  as 
he  was  the  first,  so  was  he  the  most  devoted  servant  of 
Mary  —  the  most  loving,  the  most  faithful,  the  most 
assiduous,  the  most  constant.  He  heads,  we  may  say, 
the  procession  of  her  devout  worshippers,  the  first  to  raise 
his  banner  in  her  honour,  unrivalled  in  his  loyalty  and 
devotion,  nay,  distancing  all  her  other  pious  clients  with 
the  rapidity  of  the  eagle,  the  king  of  birds. 

On  the  other  hand,  no  less  was  the  love  and  reverence 
which  the  Virgin  had  for  him.  She  rejoiced  to  serve 
him  as  her  lord,  respect  him  as  her  tutor  and  guardian, 
and  tenderly  love  him  as  her  spouse,  treating  him  with  all 
the  honour  with  which  Scripture  records  that  Sara 
treated  Abraham,  telling  us  that  she  called  him  "  lord,"1 
implying  thereby  much  more  than  the  mere  words  ex- 
press. Keflecting  on  all  this,  the  devout  Gerson  enthusi- 
astically exclaimed  before  the  Council  of  Constance, 
"  Marvellous  is  thy  sublime  elevation,  O  Joseph !  O 
incomparable  dignity,  that  the  Mother  of  God,  the  Queen 
of  Heaven,  the  Sovereign  Lady  of  the  world,  should  not 

1  Gen.  xviii.  12  ;  1  St.  Peter  iii.  6. 


disdain  to  call  thee  her  lord !  Truly,  truly,"  he  continued, 
"  0  orthodox  Fathers,  I  know  not  which  most  to  admire, 
the  great  humility  of  Mary  or  the  sublime  grandeur  of 
Joseph."  Mary  (says  Isolano)  gave  honour  to  Joseph, 
not  only  as  her  husband,  but  as  her  tutor  and  guardian  ; 
she  never  departed  a  hair's  breadth  from  his  wishes ;  she 
never  determined  on  anything  without  his  advice,  never 
moved  a  step  without  his  permission,  nor  undertook  any- 
thing without  his  consent.  In  every  thing  she  depended 
on  his  will,  for  in  the  will  of  Joseph  she  recognised  the 
most  holy  will  of  God.  They  were  one  heart  and  one 
soul :  what  concord,  then,  what  tranquillity,  what  peace 
reigned  between  them  ! l  St.  Bernardine  of  Siena 
writes  :  "  Since  the  Virgin  comprehended  how  great  was 
conjugal  unity  in  spiritual  love,  and  knew  that  this  spouse 
had  been  given  her  directly  by  the  Spirit  of  God,  I  believe 
that  she  sincerely  loved  Joseph  with  the  entire  affection 
of  her  heart";2  and  Isidore  Isolano  adds  that  "the 
love  of  the  saints  is  the  most  ardent,  the  most  perfect, 
and  the  'holiest  of  loves  ".  John  of  Cartagena,  indeed, 
argues  the  eminent  sanctity  of  Joseph  above  all  the  saints 
from  the  very  fact  of  Mary's  most  ardent  love  of  him ; 
for  "knowing,"  he  says,  "the  obligation  that  lay  upon 
her  to  love  her  spouse,  she  loved  Joseph  more  than  all  the 
patriarchs  and  prophets,  martyrs,  apostles,  and  angels  ".3 
What  felicity  for  Joseph,  and  what  an  honour,  to  enjoy 
the  whole  love  of  her  who  with  a  single  glance  of  her  eye 
could  enhance  the  joy  of  the  angels  of  Paradise  !  Now 
it  is  that  we  can  realise  how  the  Evangelist,  desiring  to 
express  the  highest  encomium  of  Joseph,  comprised  it  in 
these  few  words  :  "  Joseph  the  husband  of  Mary  ".  The 
being  Mary's  spouse  was  the  foundation  and  basis  of  all 
his  dignity. 

We  cannot  refrain  from  quoting  here  a  passage  from 

1  Summa  de  Donis  S.  Joseph,  p.  ii.  c.  ix. 
2  Sermo  de  S.  Joseph,  c.  i..  a.  11.        3  Lib.  iv.  Horn.  viii.  de  S.  Joseph. 

160  ST.    JOSEPH. 

the  writings  of  that  great  lover  of  Joseph,  St.  Leonard 
of  Port  Maurice.  "Let  the  Evangelists  be  silent,"  he 
says,  "  concerning  all  they  could  tell  us  of  Joseph,  placing 
in  array  before  us  those  virtues  and  singular  prerogatives 
which  serve  as  a  noble  accompaniment  to  his  dignity. 
To  me  it  suffices  that  they  make  him  known  to  us  as  the 
husband  of  Mary,  that  is,  the  most  like  among  all  living 
beings  to  the  most  perfect  of  pure  creatures  who  ever 
came  out  of  the  hands  of  God,  even  His  own  Blessed 
Mother.  Spouse  of  Mary  !  that  is,  who  came  nearest 
to  that  highest  pinnacle  of  sanctity  which  pierced  the 
heavens,  which  rose  above  the  empyrean,  and  from  the 
very  bosom  of  the  Eternal  Father  drew  down  His  Only- 
Begotten  Son.  Spouse  of  Mary  !  that  is,  head  of  the  first 
head  in  the  world,  for  the  husband  is  the  head  of  the 
wife.  Spouse  of  Mary !  that  is,  lord  of  that  sovereign 
Lady  who  well  knew  the  precept  of  Genesis  :  '  Thou 
shalt  be  under  thy  husband's  power,  and  he  shall  have 
dominion  over  thee  '  j1  and  who,  most  perfect  in  all  else, 
was  so  also  in  the  reverence  and  homage  which  she  paid 
to  her  spouse,  in  which  reverence  and  homage  she  sur- 
passed all  other  wives.  Spouse  of  Mary  !  that  is,  of  the 
great  Queen  whom  to  serve  is  the  highest  dignity  of  the 
Dominations,  the  highest  function  of  the  Principalities, 
the  deepest  study  of  the  Cherubim,  and  the  most  ardent 
desire  of  the  Seraphim.  .  .  .  'No  more,'  exclaims 
St.  Bernard ;  '  you  say  all  in  saying  he  was  like  the 
Virgin,  his  spouse.'  He  was  like  her  in  all  things :  in 
countenance,  in  feature,  in  heart,  in  disposition,  in 
manners,  in  sanctity,  in  virtue;  so  that,  if  Mary  was  the 
aurora  preceding  the  Divine  Sun,  Joseph  was  the  horizon 
illuminated  by  Its  splendours."  2 

O  truly  happy  spouse  !     Adam  rejoiced  when  he  re- 
ceived from  God  Eve  for  a  companion,  but  his  joy  was 

1  Chap.  iii.  16.  2  Panegir.  di  S.  Giusseppe,  v. 

LIFE   AT    NAZAEETH.  161 

soon  turned  into  sorrow,  for  Eve  brought  to  him  irre- 
parable woe  ;  while  Joseph's  joy  in  receiving  Mary  for 
his  companion  was  constant  and  enduring,  for  Mary  was 
to  him  the  cause  of  endless  felicity.  Mary  brought  him 
everlasting  riches  as  her  dowry,  so  that  he  might  truly 
say,  "  All  good  things  came  to  me  together  with  her, 
and  innumerable  riches  through  her  hands  ".*  Now,  if 
the  Virgin  is  wont  to  obtain  such  great  graces  even  for 
sinners,  enemies  of  her  Son,  how  many  favours  must  she 
not  have  obtained  for  her  holy  spouse,  the  guardian  of 
her  purity  and  the  loving  foster-father  of  her  Divine  Son ! 
And  if  we,  miserable  creatures,  often  profit  greatly  from 
consorting  and  conversing  with  holy  men,  who  are  as 
nothing  compared  to  the  Virgin,  how  much  may  we  not 
suppose  Joseph  to  have  profited  by  his  association  and 
conversation  with  the  Queen  of  all  Saints !  "  Mary," 
says  Gerson,  "  for  so  many  years  inspired  and  communi- 
cated graces  to  Joseph  by  her  looks,  by  her  voice,  by  her 
example,  by  her  conversation;"  and  again  Cartagena: 
"  What  a  vast  increase  of  spiritual  joy  and  virtue  must 
we  not  esteem  Joseph  to  have  received  from  the  society 
of  the  Blessed  Virgin,  from  having  been  worthy  of  hear- 
ing so  often  the  sweet  voice  of  the  Mother  of  God,  con- 
templating her  heavenly  countenance,  and  enjoying,  not 
only  her  blessed  presence,  but  even  her  conjugal  affection 
and  intimacy  !  " 2 

We  should  overload  our  pages  were  we  to  cite  all  that 
Saints  and  Doctors  have  said  touching  the  holy  conver- 
sation of  Mary  and  Joseph.  We  must  be  content  with 
giving  an  extract  from  that  Conference  of  St.  Francis  de 
Sales  to  which  frequent  reference  has  been  made.3 
Speaking  of  the  virginal  nuptials  of  Joseph  and  Mary, 
he  says,  "  Oh,  how  divine  was  the  union  between  our 

Wisdom  vii.  11.  2  Lib.  iv.  Horn.  viii. 

3  Entretien,  xix. 


162  ST.    JOSEPH. 

Lady  and  the  glorious  St.  Joseph,  a  union  which  caused 
the  Supreme  Good,  the  Good  of  all  goods,  our  Lord  Him- 
self, to  belong  to  Joseph — even  as  He  belonged  to  our 
Lady — not  by  nature  but  by  grace  ;  which  made  him  a 
sharer  in  all  the  possessions  of  his  dear  spouse,  and  made 
him  continually  increase  in  perfection  by  his  continual 
communications  with  her  who  possessed  all  virtues  in  so 
exalted  a  degree  that  no  other  creature,  however  pure 
and  spotless,  can  attain  to  them !  Nevertheless,  St. 
Joseph  was .  the  one  who  made  the  nearest  approach ; 
and,  as  a  mirror,  when  set  before  the  rays  of  the  sun, 
reflects  them  perfectly,  and  another  set  before  the  first 
so  vividly  repeats  them  that  it  is  scarcely  possible  to  see 
which  of  the  two  immediately  receives  them,  even  so  our 
Lady,  like  a  most  pure  mirror,  received  the  rays  of  the 
Sun  of  Justice,  which  conveyed  into  her  soul  all  virtues 
and  perfections,  and  St.  Joseph,  like  a  second  mirror, 
reflected  them  so  perfectly  that  he  appeared  to  possess 
them  in  as  sublime  a  degree  as  did  the  glorious  Virgin 

Amidst  the  abundance  of  goods  so  many  and  so  price- 
less, must  not  Joseph  have  deemed  himself  supremely 
blessed,  and  must  not  the  holy  house  of  Nazareth  have 
appeared  to  him  an  earthly  Paradise  ?  The  very  know- 
ledge that  he  was  so  ardently  loved  by  Mary,  the  virgin* 
spouse  of  the  Eternal,  the  delight  of  angels  and  of  saints, 
a  miracle  of  beauty,  the  sweetest  charm  of  heaven  and 
eartlj — was  not  this  enough  to  transport  him  with  un- 
utterable joy  ?  And  to  think  that  of  so  sublime  a  lady, 
visited  by  angels,  blessed  by  God,  he  was  the  happy 
spouse,  the  protector,  the  guardian,  the  head,  having,  as 
Gerson  says,  authority,  principality,  dominion,  and 
empire  over  her — this  thought  alone  rendered  him  valiant 
to  launch  himself  on  any  undertaking,  however  arduous, 
strong  in  sustaining  every  labour,  patient  under  all  adver- 
sities; this  it  was  which  made  him  insensible  to  all 

LIFE    AT   NAZARETH.  163 

fatigues,  rendered  poverty  itself  still  dearer  to  him  than 
it  had  ever  been ;  and,  if  anything  grieved  him,  it  was 
only  that  he  could  not  provide  for  so  great  a  lady  all  the 
honour  due  to  her  exalted  rank  and  merits. 

(  164) 


THE  Lord  meanwhile  was  preparing  for  both  of  these" 
holy  spouses  a  high  destiny,  a  grace  and  a  dignity 
never  conceded  to  any  creature,  earthly  or  heavenly. 
By  the  express  command  of  God  they  had  contracted 
holy  matrimony  in  the  presence  of  the  priests  of  the 
Temple,  and  by  His  inspiration  and  movement  had, 
immediately  after  their  marriage,  made  a  vow  of  perpe- 
tual, virginity.  But  such  a  vow  was  a  thing  quite  new, 
and  the  virtue  of  virginity  itself  was  almost  unknown  to 
this  carnal  people.  Mary  and  Joseph,  in  their  humility, 
would  hide  from  profane  eyes  this  heavenly  virtue  under 
the  veil  of  marriage.  Nevertheless,  they  must  have 
known  that  they  would  thus  incur  in  the  eyes  of  the 
vulgar  the  opprobrium  of  sterility.  But  what  of  that  ? 
So  great  was  their  love  and  devotion  to  virginity  that 
they  made  no  account  of  the  disgrace,  as  it  was  reckoned, 
of  infecundity,  and  cared  not  for  the  reproach  it  would 
bring  upon  them.  God,  however,  who  loves  virginity 
and  humility,  did  not  will  that  this  reproach  should  lie 
upon  them,  but  purposed  to  reward  their  fidelity  to  these 
virtues  in  a  wonderful  manner.  Others  hastened  to 
contract  marriage,  at  the  sacrifice  of  their  virginity,  with 
the  hope  of  having  the  Messias  born  of  their  race,  while 
these  two  holy  spouses,  on  the  contrary,  had  made  a  vow 
of  perpetual  virginity,  reputing  themselves  unworthy  of 
that  honour ;  and  lo  !  it  was  they  to  whom  the  Messi 
should  be  given  without  loss  of  their  angelic  purit 




They  had  hidden  it,  heedless  of  what  men  would  think 
on  beholding  them  childless.  But  God  delivered  the 
humble  from  the  contempt  of  the  proud,  and  to  these 
virgin  spouses  divinely  conceded  a  Son,  the  fairest  and  the 
most  exalted  among  the  children  of  men.  Oh,  how  good 
is  the  Most  High  God  to  the  upright  in  heart !  How 
gracious  towards  those  who  are  truly  humble !  Mary  and 
Joseph  knew  from  the  prophets  that  the  time  for  the 
birth  of  the  Messias  was  at  hand,  and  that  He  was  to  be 
born  of  the  tribe  of  Juda,  and  of  the  house  of  David,  in  the 
city  of  Bethlehem ;  and,  being  themselves  of  that  tribe 
and  house,  they  forego  by  their  vow  all  possibility  of 
being  themselves  the  happy  progenitors,  and  conceal 
themselves  in  one  of  the  obscure  villages  of  Galilee. 
But,  precisely  because  they  have  such  a  lowly  esteem 
of  themselves,  God  follows  them,  God  singles  them 
out,  and  exalts  them,  bestowing  on  their  virginal  purity 
that  same  Messias  of  whom  they  considered  themselves 
so  unworthy,  Him  who  had  been  the  desire  of  all  the 
mothers  in  Sion,  and  of  so  many  patriarchs  and  kings ; 
in  fine,  the  desire  of  the  whole  universe. 

The  winter  was  now  past,  and  spring  was  returning  to 
gladden  the  earth.  According  to  many  Doctors  of  the 
Church,  it  was  the  year  4,000  of  the  creation  of  the  world 
and  the  same  season  of  the  year  in  which  God  completed 
that  work  of  His  hands.  The  25th  of  March  had  come, 
when  the  Lord  God  called  to  Him  the  Archangel  Gabriel, 
one  of  the  seven  spirits  who  stand  before  His  throne,  the 
same  who  had  been  commissioned  to  reveal  to  Daniel  the 
mystery  of  the  seventy  weeks.  That  great  prince  of 
Heaven  may,  indeed,  justly  be  regarded  as  the  Angel 
of  the  Incarnation.  His  name  signifies  the  Strength  of 
God,  a  most  fitting  appellation  for  one  chosen  to  announce 
the  coming  of  Him  who  was  to  vanquish  "  the  prince  of  the 
power  of  this  air,"  1  the  great  adversary,  the  devil,  and  to 
1  Eph.  ii.  2. 

166  .         ST.    JOSEPH. 

destroy  his  works.  And  to  whom  was  this  glorious  mes- 
senger sent?  "To  a  virgin  espoused  to  a  man  whose 
name  was  Joseph,  of  the  house  of  David  ;  and  the  virgin's 
name  was  Mary."1  This  is  the  first  time  that  the 
Evangelist  names  St.  Joseph.  By  this  mention  of  him 
he  makes  known  to  us  the  large  share  which  he  would 
have  in  the  glories  of  Mary  ;  for,  if  great  was  the  dignity 
of  the  Virgin  in  being  the  Mother  of  God,  great  also  was 
the  dignity  of  Joseph  in  being  the  husband  of  her  of 
whom  the  Son  of  God  was  born.  Nor  let  the  word 
"  espoused  "  be  understood,  as  by  some  it  has  been  under- 
stood, as  if  Mary  were  at  that  time  only  promised  in 
marriage,  that  is,  betrothed.  No.  The  nuptials  had 
already  been  celebrated,  according  to  the  true  sense  of 
Scripture,  a  point  which  has. been  clearly  established  by 
the  Holy  Fathers  and  Doctors,  and,  in  particular,  by  the 
Angelic  Doctor,  St.  Thomas.  Thus  we  find  St.  Matthew 
calling  Joseph  the  husband  of  Mary,  and  Mary  the  wife 
of  Joseph.2  It  may  be  remarked  also  that  the  term 
"  espoused  "  is  used  again  by  the  same  Evangelist,  St. 
Luke,  on  the  occasion  of  the  journey  to  Bethlehem,8 
when  no  possible  question  could  arise  as  to  its  significa- 
tion. Those  who  contend  that  the  marriage  was  not 
solemnised  until  after  Mary's  visit  to  Elizabeth,  which 
lasted  three  months,  and  Joseph's  discovery  of  her  condi- 
tion, raise  an  insuperable  difficulty  ;  for  how  in  that  case 
could  one  of  the  primary  objects  of  their  holy  union  have 
been  attained,  that  of  shielding  the  honour  of  the  Blessed 
Mother  of  God  ? 

To  the  great  archangel,  then,  the  Most  High  made 
known  the  embassage  with  which  he  was  charged,  and 
the  words  which  he  was  to  address  to  the  Virgin  of 
Nazareth.  His  Divine  Majesty  was  at  the  same  time 
pleased  Himself  to  declare  to  the  whole  hierarchy  of 
Heaven  that  the  time  for  man's  redemption  was  arrived, 
1  St.  Luke  i.  27.  2  Chap.  i.  19,  24.  3  Chap.  ii.  5. 


and  that  He  was  about  to  descend  into  the  world  and 
become  incarnate  in  the  womb  of  Mary,  whom  He  had 
chosen,  prepared,  and  adorned  to  be  His  mother.  Al- 
though the  ordinary  manner  in  which  the  heavenly  in- 
telligences are  enlightened  is  by  communication  from  the 
superior  to  the  inferior  hierarchies,  on  this  occasion  it 
was  not  so  ;  for,  as  Holy  Scripture  tells  us,  "When  He 
bringeth  in  the  First-Begotten  into  the  world,  He  saith, 
And  let  all  the  angels  of  God  adore  Him  ".*  No  sooner, 
then,  did  all  the  orders  of  blessed  spirits  hear  the  voice 
of  their  Creator  announcing  to  them  this  marvellous 
news,  than  they  burst  forth  in  one  simultaneous  canticle 
of  praise  and  thanksgiving  to  the  Triune  God,  magnifying 
especially  the  Divine  condescension  in  honouring  and 
exalting  the  humble  :  "  Blessed  be  the  name  of  the 
Lord  from  henceforth  now  and  for  ever.  The  Lord  is 
high  above  all  nations,  and  His  glory  above  the  heavens. 
Who  is  like  unto  the  Lord  our  God,  who  dwelleth  on 
high,  and  regardeth  the  things  that  are  lowly  in  heaven 
and  on  earth?  "2 

Thousands  of  the  celestial  hosts  followed  Gabriel,  as 
he  flew  with  lightning  speed  to  Nazareth,  that'  they 
might  adore  the  God-Man  at  the  very  instant  of  His  con- 
ception, and  pay  their  devoted  h6mage  to  the  Mother  of 
the  Eternal  King.  What  was  the  hour?  Midnight 
must  have  struck,  for  the  25th  of  March  had  begun ;  but 
it  cannot  have  sounded  long,  for,  as  Jesus  was  born  at 
the  midnight  hour  at  Bethlehem,  so  we  may  believe  that 
He  was  conceived  at  a  like  hour  at  Nazareth,  and  may 
apply  literally  to  the  moment  of  His  incarnation  that 
passage  in  the  Book  of  Wisdom  which  the  Church  has 
adopted  for  the  Introit  of  Sunday  in  the  Christmas  week  : 
''While  all  things  were  in  quiet  silence/and  the  night 
was  in  the  midst  of  her  course,  Thy  Almighty  Word 
leapt  down  from  heaven  from  Thy  royal  throne  ".3  But 

1  Heb.  i.  6  ;  Psalm  xcvi.  7.     2  Psalm  cxii.  2-6.     3  Wisdom  xviii.  14. 

168  ST.    JOSEPH. 

the  whole  universe,  and  God  Himself,  were  awaiting 
Mary's  consent.  The  Virgin  was  in  the  secrecy  of  her 
chamber,  rapt  in  contemplation  and  fervent  prayer  for 
the  coming  of  the  Messias,  that  there  might  be  an  end  of 
sin  and  prevarication,  that  iniquity  might  be  cancelled, 
eternal  justice  be  established,  the  prophecies  be  accom- 
plished, and  the  Saint  of  Saints  be  anointed.  This  was, 
indeed,  the  continual  subject  of  her  petitions.  Maria 
d'Agreda  says  that  the  Lord  had  caused  her  to  make  a 
nine  days'  prayer  of  special  earnestness  directed  to  that 
end,  during  which  she  was  favoured  with  visions  and 
graces  of  a  most  exalted  character ;  but  she  adds  that, 
when  Gabriel  acquitted  himself  of  his  mission,  the  Most 
High  left  her  in  her  ordinary  spiritual  state,  withdrawing 
all  unusual  favours  and  graces  from  her  soul,  because 
this  mystery  was  to  be  a  "  sacrament  of  faith,"  allowing 
the  operations  of  that  virtue,  as  well  as  those  of  hope  and 
charity,  to  have  their  full  exercise,  that  by  believing  and 
hoping  in  the  Divine  word  addressed  to  her  by  the  angel, 
she  might  merit  freely  the  accomplishment  of  those 
things  .which  were  announced  to  her.1 

The  angel  was  to  present  himself  in  a  visible  human 
form,  because,  as  St.  Thomas  says,  he  came  to  announce 
the  advent  of  that  God  who,  in  Himself  invisible,  was 
about  to  become  visible  in  human  flesh ;  and  he  was  also 
to  assume  a  specially  beautiful  and  majestic  appearance, 
as  befitted  such  a  messenger  and  such  a  message.  The 
Angel  Gabriel  came,  says  St.  Augustine,  all  radiant  in 
his  countenance,  glorious  in  his  apparel,  admirable  in  his 
bearing.  That  the  movement  of  the  angel  was  such  as  is 
proper  to  bodies  seems  to  be  signified  by  the  Evangelist 
when  he  says,  not  that  he  appeared  to  Mary,  but  that 
he  "  came  in  "  unto  her,  that  is,  entered  the  house  and 
the  room  where  she  was,  which  was  instantly  flooded 

1  This  seems  to  be  implied  in  the  words  of  Elizabeth.  St.  Luke 
i.  45. 


with  light.  The  Virgin  was  suddenly  roused  from  her 
ecstasy  by  this  blaze  of  glory,  but,  if  startled,  she  was 
not  alarmed.1  The  visits  of  angels  were  not  new  to 
her,  and  a  pious  Oriental  tradition  asserts  that  she  had 
even  seen  Gabriel  himself  once  before  near  the  fountain 
of  Nazareth.  The  magnificence,  however,  of  his  attire, 
the  majesty  of  his  aspect,  and  the  impressive  grandeur  of 
his  ingress  may  well  have  filled  her  with  peculiar  awe 
and  veneration.  She  was  about  to  make  him  a  profound 
obeisance  when  he  presented  her  with  his  own  reveren- 
tial salutation,  as  to  his  lady  and  queen.  For  times  were 
henceforward  changed,  and  men  were  no  longer  to  adore 
the  angels  after  the  manner  of  the  people  of  God  under 
the  Old  Testament,  which  was  "  ordained  by  angels  in 
the  hand  of  a  mediator  ".2  The  Apostle  also  calls  it 
"  the  word  spoken  by  angels,"  and  adds  that  "  God 
hath  not  subjected  unto  angels  the  world  to  come," 
signifying  thereby  the  kingdom  of  Christ.3  The  angels, 
in  fact,  under  the  Old  Law,  before  the  Incarnation,  not 
only  acted  the  part  of  messengers  from  God  to  men,  but 
not  unfrequently  personated  Him  and  spoke  in  His 
Name.  Hence  we  find  them  receiving  on  these  occa- 
sions a  vicarious  adoration  directed  to  God.4  But  when 
human  nature  was  united  to  God  Himself  in  the  Person 
of  the  Word  men  were  no  longer  to  be  under  the  minis- 

1  In  the  Office  of  the  Annunciation  it  is  said,  Expavescit  Virgo  de 
lumine ;  but  this  need  mean  no  more  than  that  she  was  startled 
and  astonished. 

2  Gal.  iii.  19.  3  Heb.  ii.  2,  5. 

4  Numerous  instances  in  proof  of  this  might  be  cited  :  e.g.,  Gen. 
xxxii.  28,  30,  where  the  "man,"  or,  as  Osee  calls  him  (xii.  4),  the 
"  angel,"  who  wrestled  with  Jacob,  says,  "  If  thou  hast  been  strong 
against  God,"  &c. ;  and  Jacob  himself  called  the  name  of  the  place 
Phanuel,  saying,  "  I  have  seen  God  face  to  face,  and  my  soul  has 
been  saved  " ;  also  Judges  xiii.  22,  where  Mamie  says  to  his  wife 
after  the  angel's  visit,  "  We  shall  certainly  die,  because  we  have 
seen  God  "  ;  and,  in  particular,  Gen.  xviii.  17-33,  where  the  angel 
who  remained  to  speak  with  Abraham  is  repeatedly  called  "  the 
Lord  ". 

170  ST.    JOSEPH 

terial  rule  of  the  angels,  but  were  to  be  their  companions 
and  brethren,1  and  Mary  was  to  be  their  queen  as  well 
as  ours. 

So  Gabriel  bowed  low  before  the  Virgin  of  Nazareth, 
and  said,  "  Hail,  full  of  grace,  the  Lord  is  with  thee. 
Blessed  art  thou  among  women."  Sublime  salutation, 
with  which,  as  St.  Ambrose  says,  the  Virgin  alone  could 
be  saluted,  for  she  alone  obtained  that  grace  which  no 
other  ever  merited  ;  that  is,  to  be  full  of  Him  who  is  the 
author  of  grace.  Mary  is  saluted  as  full  of  grace,  says 
St..  Jerome,  because  to  others  grace  is  given  in  part  and 
by  measure,  but  in  Mary  the  whole  fulness  of  grace  was 
infused ; 2  whence,  as  St.  Bernard  adds,  she  is  full  of 
grace  for  herself  and  has  a  superabundance  of  grace  for 
us.  Mary,  then,  being  so  full  of  grace  from  the  moment 
of  her  conception,  it  was  meet  that  the  Lord  should  be 
with  her,  not  in  an  ordinary  and  common  manner,  but  in 
one  that  was  extraordinary  and  unprecedented.  God  is 
with  all  by  His  essence,  His  power,  and  His  presence, 
and  with  the  just  by  His  grace  ;  but  He  was  with  Mary, 
not  only  in  all  these  modes,  but  in  one  altogether  new 
and  singular.  He  was  with  Mary  by  a  certain  peculiar 
union,  since  the  Son  of  God  was  about  to  take  human 
flesh  in  her  womb  and,  with  a  human  soul  united  to  the 
Person  of  the  Word,  was  to  be  called  and  truly  to  be  the 
Son  of  Mary,  wherefore  Mary  was  to  be  truly  called  and 
truly  to  be  the  Mother  of  God.  No  one  in  the  world, 
whether  among  angels  or  among  men,  was  ever  so  closely 
united  to  God  as  was  Mary,  no  one  was  so  near  to  the 
Divinity ;  so  that  the  Angelic  Doctor  does  not  scruple  to 
affirm  that  the  dignity  of  Mary  has  something  in  it  of 

1  This  is  the  reason  given  by  the  angel  in  the  Apocalypse  (xxii. 
9),  for  refusing  the  homage  which  St.  John  the  Evangelist  would 
have  paid  him,  and  may  serve  to  explain  the  angel's  disclaimer,  ' 
which  heretics  have  availed  themselves  to  deny  the  lawfulness 
the  honour  rendered  by  Catholics  to  these  spirits  of  Heaven. 
2  Sermo  de  Assumptione  B.  Marice  Virginis. 


the  infinite.  Well,  therefore,  might  she  be  styled  blessed 
by  the  angel,  blessed  among  all  women.  All  other 
women  shared  the  malediction  of  Eve  ;  Mary  alone  was 
exempt.  From  Eve  began  malediction,  and  benediction 
began  from  Mary.  From  the  first  instant  of  her  being 
she  triumphed  over  the  infernal  serpent,  and  was  in  her- 
self and  in  her  children  eternally  blessed.  Jahel,  it  is 
true,  who  was  a  figure  of  Mary,  was  saluted  by  Debbora 
as  "  blessed  among  women," 1  because  she  had  slain 
Sisara,  the  enemy  of  God's  people,  but  this  blessing  of 
Jahel  was  simply  one  of  words,  whereas  the  blessing  of 
Mary  was  in  very  deed ;  it  was  intrinsic  and  full  of  measure- 
less grace,  from  the  peculiar  presence  of  that  God  who  is 
the  author  of  grace  ;  so  that,  as  St.  Ambrose  says,  the 
form  of  blessing  used  by  the  angel  to  Mary  was  reserved 
for  her  alone.2 

At  these  words  of  praise  the  most  humble  virgin  was 
"  troubled  "  and,  casting  her  eyes  on  the  ground,  reflected 
within  herself  what  could  be  the  import  of  the  salutation. 
This  was  the  cause  of  her  perturbation,  and  not,  as  some 
have  imagined,  the  appearance  of  an  angel  in  human 
form.  What  need  to  seek  further  when  the  Evangelist 
speaks  so  plainly  ?  The  angel  gently  comforted  her, 
saying,  "  Fear  not,  Mary,  for  thou  hast  found  grace  with 
God  "  ;  as  if  he  would  say,  whoever  has  found  grace  has 
no  cause  to  fear ;  it  is  for  those  only  to  fear  who  have  lost 
grace  ;  and  then  immediately  follow  the  words,  given  by 
St.  Luke,  in  which  he  acquitted  himself  of  his  embassage  : 
"Behold  thou  shalt  conceive  in  thy  womb,  and  shalt 
bring  forth  a  son  ;  and  thou  shalt  call  His  name  Jesus. 
He  shall  be  great,  and  shall  be  called  the  Son  of  the 
Most  High,  and  the  Lord  God  shall  give  unto  Him  the 
throne  of  David,  His  father,  and  He  shall  reign  in  the 
house  of  Jacob  for  ever :  and  of  His  kingdom  there  shall 
be  no  end."3  At  hearing  this  glorious  offer,  which  of  the 
1  Judges  v.  24.  2  L.  ii.  in  Lucam.  3  Chap.  i.  30-33. 

172  ST.    JOSEPH. 

daughters  of  Sion  would  not  have  exulted  with  joy? 
Which  of  them  would  have  hesitated  for .  an  instant  in 
accepting  the  divine  maternity?  Nevertheless,  Mary 
retains  her  heavenly  calmness,  and  pauses  before  giving 
her  assent.  She  well  understood  the  meaning  of  the 
offer  made  to  her,  and  never  doubted  for  a  moment  the 
omnipotence  of  God.  She  believes  the  mystery,  but, 
prudent  and  most  tender  of  her  virginity,  which  she  has 
solemnly  vowed  to  God,  she  desires  to  comprehend  how 
the  two  can  be  reconciled.  She  seeks,  says  St.  Augus- 
tine, to  know  the  mode  in  which  the  mystery  can  be 
accomplished.  Venerable  Bede  says  that  she  had  read 
in  Isaias l  that  a  virgin  should  conceive  and  bear  a  son, 
but  she  had  not  read  how  this  was  to  be,  and  this  she 
sought  to  learn  from  the  angel ;  that  is,  how  her  beloved 
virginity  was  to  remain  safe  and  intact :  as  if  she  were 
ready  (as  saints  have  said),  had  she  the  choice,  rather 
to  renounce  the  divine  maternity  than  lose  her  virginal 
purity,  so  enamoured  of  it  was  she.  She  is  not  in- 
credulous, she  does  not  ask  for  a  sign,  as  did  Zachary,2 
to  enable  her  to  believe.  She  simply  seeks  a  solution  of 
the  difficulty.  Although  the  works  of  God,  perfect  in 
themselves,  need  no  justification  before  men,  neverthe- 
less, when  the  human  reason  is  called  on  by  God  to  give 
its  assent,  and  some  contradiction  is  discernible  by  it, 
though  only  apparent,  God  is  willing  to  come  to  the  aid 
of  the  infirmity  of  human  nature,  that,  all  obstacle  being 
removed,  the  adhesion  given  to  His  will  by  the  intellect 
may  be  more  entire  and  the  homage  more  perfect.  And 
this  was  precisely  Mary's  case.  If  the  vow  she  had 
made  was  from  God,  of  which  she  had  no  doubt,  and  if 
equally  from  God  was  the  maternity  now  offered  by  the 
angel,  whose  veracity  she  never  questioned,  then  it  was 
certain  that  the  latter  must  take  place  without  violation 
of  the  former.  But  by  what  means  could  two  things  be 
1  Chap.  vii.  14.  2  St.  Luke  i.  18. 


reconciled  which  presented  themselves  to  the  intellect  as 
so  diametrically  opposed.  Wherefore  Mary,  who  had 
heard  her  own  praises  in  silence,  now  speaks,  and  in- 
quires of  the  angel,  "  How  shall  this  be  done,  because  I 
know  not  man?  "  These  words  of  Mary  are  a  manifest 
testimony  to  her  own  virginity  and  that  of  Joseph.  St. 
Augustine  draws  from  them  an  indisputable  argument  to 
prove  that  both  she  and  Joseph  had  bound  themselves 
thereto  by  a  perpetual  vow.  And  because  this  question 
of  Mary  was  not  one  of  vain  curiosity  or  cold  mistrust, 
but  was  dictated  by  that  consummate  prudence  with 
which  she  was  endowed,  the  angel  promptly  satisfied  her. 
"  The  Holy  Ghost,"  he  said,  "  shall  come  upon  thee,  and 
the  power  of  the  Most  High  shall  overshadow  thee. 
And  therefore,  also,  the  Holy  which  shall  be  born  of  thee 
shall  be  called  the  Son  of  God." 1  By  these  words  Mary 
was  assured  that,  this  conception  being  the  marvellous 
work  of  the  Spirit  of  God,  she  should  become  the  Mother 
of  God  without  detriment  to  her  virginity;  whence  St. 
Peter  Chrysologus  says,  "  Mary  is  truly  blessed,  in  that 
she  possesses  at  once  the  dignity  of  a  mother  and  the  merit 
of  virginity  ".2  "  This  glory,"  exclaims  St.  Bernard,  "  of 
having  the  joy  of  maternity  and  the  honour  of  virginity 
belongs  to  Mary  alone,  who  in  this  privilege  had  none 
either  preceding  or  following  her.  It  is  her  exclusive 
privilege,  which  shall  never  be  given  to  another.  It  is  a 
privilege  at  once  singular  and  ineffable."8  St.  Bernard 
deduces  from  the  angel's  words  two  other  great  truths. 
The  mystery  of  the  Most  Holy  Trinity,  or  of  the  Three 
Divine  Persons,  is  clearly  and  distinctly  revealed  for 
the  first  time  in  the  Annunciation.  The  angel  names 
the  Father,  the  Son,  and  the  Holy  Ghost.  The  other 
truth  is  that  the  whole  Blessed  Trinity  took  part  in 
this  great  mystery,  although  the  Second.  Person  alone 
became  incarnate.  Gabriel  added,  "  And  behold  thy 

1  Ibid.  v.  35.       2  Scrm.  cxliii.      3  Serm.  iv.  de  Assumpt.  B.  Virg. 

174  .        ST.   JOSEPH. 

cousin  Elizabeth,  she  also  hath  conceived  a  son  in  her 
old  age;  and  this  is  the  sixth  month  with  her  that  is 
called  barren ;  because  no  word  shall  be  impossible  with 
God".1  The  angel  made  this  known  .to  Mary,  not  only 
that  she  might  rejoice  at  the  happy  tidings,  but  that  she 
might  go  and  visit  the  mother  of  the  Precursor. 

A  great  wonder  it  is,  no  doubt,  and  worthy  of  our 
highest  admiration,  that  the  accomplishment  of  all  these 
mysteries  and  of  everything  involved  in  them  should  be 
•  left  by  the  Most  High  in  the  hands  of  a  humble  maiden, 
and  that  all  should  depend  on  her  fiat ;  but  securely  was 
it  left  to  the  wisdom  and  fortitude  of  this  "  valiant 
woman,"  who  did  not  betray  the  confidence  reposed  in 
her.  The  works  accomplished  within  God  Himself  need 
not  the  co-operation  of  the  creature,  nor  do  they  admit  of 
its  participation ;  therefore  God  awaits  not  the  consent 
of  creatures  to  act  ad  intra.  But  in  His  works  ad  extra, 
His  contingent  works,  it  is  different.  Among  these  the 
greatest  was  His  being  made  man ;  and  He  would  not 
effect  it  without  the  co-operation  of  the  most  holy  Mary 
or  without  her  free  consent ;  and  this  in  order  that  with 
her  and  by  her  He  should  give  this  fulfilment  and  crown 
of  all  His  works,  and  that  we  should  recognise  the  benefit 
as  coming  to  us  from  the  Mother  of  Wisdom  and  our 
Reparatrix.  Moreover,  God  desired  that  Mary  should 
give  the  assent  of  her  whole  being,  intellect,  heart,  will, 
and  that  her  reply  should  be  therefore  such  as  befitted 
the  most  exalted  of  mysteries.  And  our  Lady  discerned 
all  that  was  implied  in  the  stupendous  offer  made  to  her ; 
she  saw  all  that  depended  on  her  answer — the  fulfilment 
of  all  the  prophecies  and  of  the  promises  made  by  God, 
the  most  pleasing  and  acceptable  sacrifice  ever  offered  or 
which  could  be  ever  offered  to  Him,  the  opening  of  the 
gates  of  Paradise,  victory  and  triumph  over  Hell,  the 
redemption  of  the  whole  human  race,  satisfaction  and 
1  St.  Luke  i.  36,  37. . 


compensation  to  Divine  justice,  the  foundation  of  the 
new  law  of  grace,  the  glory  of  men,  the  joy  of  the  angels, 
and  all  that  would  be  contained  in  and -result  from  the 
Only-Begotten  of  the  Father  taking  the  form  of  a  servant 
in  her  womb.  All  was  before  the  magnificent  and 
divinely  illuminated  intellect  of  this  great  lady.  Having, 
then,  conferred  with  the  angel  and  within  herself  con- 
cerning this  most  sublime  mystery,  her  spirit  was  fortified 
and  raised  to  such  a  height  of  admiration  and  reverence, 
and  she  made  so  intense  an  act  of  the  love  of  God,  that 
her  most  chaste  heart,  by  the  force  of  this  act  and  under 
its  pressure,  gave  forth,  says  Maria  d'Agreda,  three  drops 
of  its  pure  blood  from  which  the  Holy  Ghost  formed  the 
Body  of  Christ  our  Lord,  so  that  the  substance  of  which 
the  Sacred  Humanity  of  the  Word  was  made  was  fur- 
nished by  the  most  pure  heart  of  Mary,  through  a  true 
and  ardent  act  of  love  :  a  beautiful  thought,  which,  when 
once  suggested,  we  do  not  willingly  relinquish,  as  it 
makes  us  realise  more  fully  and  deeply  the  co-operation 
of  the  Blessed  Virgin  in  the  work  of  our  redemption. 

At  the  same  moment  that  love  had  this  supernatural 
effect  within  her,  she  bent  her  head  with  the  profoundest 
humility,  and,  joining  her  hands,  she  said,  "  Behold  the 
handmaid  of  the  Lord ;  be  it  done  to  me  according  to 
thy  word".  The  salvation  of  the  world  was  awaiting 
Mary's  consent.  Mary  has  given  her  consent,  and  the 
world  is  saved.  In  one  instant  is  accomplished  in  her  the 
work  of  the  Incarnation,  and  Mary  is  the  Mother  of  God. 
The  Virgin  remains  absorbed  in  an  ecstasy,  flooded  with 
torrents  of  heavenly  joy.  She  has  become  the  tabernacle 
of  the  Living  God ;  legions  of  angels  have  descended  to 
honour  her  as  their  queen  and  adore  the  Divine  Word 
made  Flesh  within  her ;  and  Gabriel  having  fulfilled  his 
mission,  after  making  a  profound  genuflection,  returns  to 
the  courts  of  Heaven. 

(  176 


WHEN  Mary  awoke  from  her  ecstasy,  in  which  saints 
have  asserted  that  she  was  raised  to  the  intuitive 
and  beatific  vision  of  God,  she  comprehended  the  dignity 
of  her  lot  and  how  He  that  was  Mighty  had  done  to  her 
great  things.  To  this  exaltation  she  responded  by 
plunging  herself  deeply  into  the  thought  of  her  own 
nothingness.  Humbly  prostrate  with  her  face  on  the 
ground,  she  long  adored  within  herself  the  majesty  and 
goodness  of  God,  whom  with  maternal  tenderness  she 
could  now  also  invoke  by  the  sweet  name  of  son.  But 
we  must  not  imagine  that  Mary  had  a  vision  only  of  joy 
and  glory.  She  had  pondered  well  all  the  prophecies 
concerning  the  Messias,  how  He  was  to  be  offered  for 
the  redemption  of  a  sinful  world,  and  cannot  have  failed 
to  be  familiar  in  particular  with  the  description  of  His 
sufferings  given  by  Isaias,  who  has  been  styled  the  fifth 
Evangelist,  and  the  detailed  reference  to  them  which 
abounds  in  the  Psalms  of  her  own  kingly  ancestor, 
David.  The  shadow  of  the  Cross  must  have  lain  upon 
her,  and  a  vision  of  the  lance  and  the  nails,  and  all.  the 
ignominies  and  torments  of  the  Passion  must  have  arisen 
before  her.  But,  like  her  Divine  Son,  who,  when  coming 
into  the  world  to  offer  Himself  as  the  true  sacrifice  for 
sin,  said,  "  Behold  I  come,  to  do  Thy  will,  O  God ;  I 
have  desired  it,  and  Thy  law  is  in  the  midst  of  My  heart,"1 

1  Psalm  xxxix.  8,  9. 


so  also  Mary  accepted  all  the  suffering  and  the  agony 
which  was  to  be  her  portion,  the  Holy  Spirit  strengthen- 
ing and  supporting  her  by  the  certainty  of  the  immense 
good  which  the  whole  human  race  would  derive  from  the 
Passion  and  Death  of  the  Incarnate  Son  of  God.  Never- 
theless, if  by  the  power  of  divine  grace  Mary  ever  con- 
tinued strong,  resigned,  and  tranquil,  still,  in  the  very 
midst  of  these  her  maternal  joys  the  sword  which  was 
one  day  to  pierce  her  soul  must  have  been  visible  to  her 
even  before  Simeon's  prophecy  had  been  addressed  to 
her.  So  much  was  the  world's  salvation  to  cost  Mary  ! 

Meanwhile,  Joseph  as  yet  knew  nothing  of  the  sublime 
dignity  to  which  his  spouse  had  been  exalted.  Mary 
met  him  as  usual,  with  the  same  loving  reverence,  kneel- 
ing down  to  wash  his  feet  when  he  returned  wearied 
with  his  labours ;  but  we  are  fain  to  believe  that  he 
must  have  experienced  an  undefined  impression  of 
veneration  for  her,  and  would  have  preferred  to  cast  him- 
self humbly  at  her  feet.  If  favoured  souls  are  sometimes 
sensibly  conscious  of  the  presence  of  the  Blessed  Sacra- 
ment in  our  churches,  how  much  more  must  holy  Joseph, 
whose  spiritual  senses  were  so  delicate  and  refined, 
have  felt  his  heart  burn  within  him  with  divine  charity, 
from  the  nearness  of  Him  who  now  dwelt  in  Mary  as 
His  living  tabernacle !  But  she  said  nothing ;  perhaps 
was  even  more  silent  than  was  her  custom.  She  went 
about  her  usual  employments,  she  prepared  the  frugal 
meal,  and  all  was  the  same,  yet  not  the  same,  for  a  glory 
must  have  shone  in  the  countenance  of  the  august 
mother,  and  a  fragrance  of  Paradise  have  pervaded  that 
lowly  'dwelling.  But  why  did  not  Mary  confide  in 
Joseph,  for  hitherto  he  had  been  the  depositary  of  all 
her  thoughts?  First,  because  the  secret  which  the  angel 
had  revealed  to  her  she  understood  to  have  been  intended 
for  herself  alone,  wherefore  she  would  not  communicate 
it  even  to  Joseph,  fearing  to  go  beyond  the  Divine  will. 


178  .     ST.    JOSEPH. 

Moreover,  the  Virgin  was  possessed  of  much  discretion 
and  forethought.  If  she  made  known  to  him  that  the 
Son  of  God  had  become  incarnate  within  her,  she  knew, 
indeed,  that  he  would  believe  her,  but  she  knew  also  his 
humility  and  reverent  spirit,  and  may  have  thought  that, 
awed  by  so  much  majesty,  he  would  perhaps  retire  and 
leave  her.  She  waited  therefore  until  the  mystery  should 
be  divinely  manifested  to  him ;  and,  finally,  being 
herself  perfect  mistress  of  humility,  she  dared  not  utter 
any  word  which  would  turn  to  her  own  praise. 

And  so  Mary  kept  silence;  she  knew  that  it  is  "  good 
to  hide  the  secret  of  the  King,"  but  she  knew  also  that 
it  is  "  honourable  to  reveal  and  confess  the  works  of 
God  ".1  Accordingly,  while  concealing  the  mystery  that 
had  been  accomplished  in  her,  to  wit,  the  Incarnation  of 
the  Divine  Word,  she  acquainted  her  beloved  spouse 
with  the  prodigy  which  God  had  wrought  in  their  cousin 
Elizabeth,  and  with  her  desire  to  go  and  congratulate 
her  on  the  favour  which  had  been  shown  her.  Zachary's 
dumbness,  with  which  it  seems  probable  they  were  well 
acquainted,  since  it  was  now  of  six  months'  duration, 
•must  have  made  him  also  worthy  to  receive  a  visit  of 
sympathy  from  them  both,  bound  as  they  were  to  the 
holy  couple,  not  only  by  ties  of  kindred,  but  by  intimate 
association.  Zachary's  frequent  presence  in  Jerusalem, 
where  he  came  to  serve  in  his.  sacerdotal  course,  must 
naturally  have  brought  this  about;  and,  though  Scripture 
makes  no  mention  of  it,  we  have  reason  to  conclude  that, 
during  Mary's  abode  in  the  Temple,  she  must  have 
become  closely  united  in  affection  with  her  saintly  cousin, 
Elizabeth.  Anyhow,  Joseph,  who  considered  the  smallest 
wish  of  Mary  as  a  law  to  himself,  was  sure  to  give  his 
ready  consent.  St.  Luke  says  that  Mary,  "  rising  up  in 
those  days,  went  into  the  hill  country  with  haste,  into  a 
city  of  Juda,"2  by  which  we  are  not  to  understand  that 
1  Tobias  xii.  7.  «  Chap.  i.  39. 


she  set  out  that  very  day,  the  haste  alluding  rather  to 
the  rapidity  of  the  journey.  The  Evangelist  says,  "in 
those  days,"  not  "that  day,"  and  Cornelius  &  Lapide  is 
of  opinion  that  there  was  a  delay  of  two  or  three  days. 
We  can  well  understand  that  such  might  be  necessary  in 
order  to  make  some  few  slight  preparations. 

But  wherefore  did  Mary  undertake  this  journey,  and 
make  it  with  haste  ?  Heretics,  with  their  habitual  and 
injurious  rashness,  reply  that  she  made  this  fatiguing 
journey  in  order  to  ascertain  with  her  own  eyes  if  what 
the  angel  had  announced  to  her  was  true ;  thus  making 
the  Blessed  Virgin  incredulous  or  doubtful  concerning 
his  message  to  herself.  "But  no,"  exclaims  St. Bernard; 
"  Mary  was  neither  incredulous  nor  doubtful  of  the  truth 
of  the  angel's  words."  *  She  fully  believed,  and  promptly 
gave  her  assent ;  and  on  this  account  she  was  praised 
for  her  faith  by  Elizabeth  herself.  Mary  went  to  visit 
her  cousin  that  she  might  rejoice  with  and  assist  her, 
and  God  Himself  disposed  the  journey  in  order  to  give 
occasion  to  all  the  prodigies  which  took  place  at  this 
blessed  Visitation.  And  the  Virgin  went  with  haste 
because,  as  St.  Ambrose  says,  the  grace  of  the  Holy 
Spirit  knows  no '  delay.  Mary,  he  adds,  was  neither  in- 
credulous nor  uncertain  on  hearing  the  angel's  announce- 
ment, nor  was  she  doubtful  concerning  the  example  he 
gave  her  of  God's  omnipotence  in  the  case  of  her  cousin, 
Elizabeth ;  but,  as  one  joyful  at  the  mystery  accom- 
plished, pressed  by  charity  to  aid  her  kinswoman,  and 
eager  to  rejoice  with  all  in  the  common  gladness,  she 
took  her  way  towards  the  mountainous  country  of 

Here  some  have  raised  a  doubt,  seeing  the  Evangelist 

does  not  name  Joseph,  whether  he  accompanied  Mary 

on  her  visit.     All  are  agreed  that  the  most  holy  Virgin 

at  her  tender  age  cannot  have  exposed  herself  to  making 

1  Super  Missus  est.  Horn.  iv.  2  In  Lucam,  cap.  i. . 

180  ST.    JOSEPH. 

this  long  and  arduous  journey  alone,  but  it  has  been 
opined  that  she  may  have  taken  as  her  companion  some 
matron  well  acquainted  with  the  road.     Yet,  if  Joseph  is 
to  be  excluded  simply  because  Scripture  does  not  name 
him,  so  also  must  the  supposed  matron  be  excluded,  of 
whom  not  a  word  is  said  in -the  sacred  text ;  and  when  it 
becomes  a  question  of  supposing  who  might  have  been 
Mary's  companion,   certainly  it   is   only   reasonable   to 
conclude  that  Joseph  was  the  person.     True,  the  Evan- 
gelist does  not  say  that  he  went,  but  neither  does  he  say 
that  he  did  not  go ;  nor,  again,  does  he  say  that  Mary 
went   by  herself.      Not  to  mention   a  circumstance   is, 
assuredly,  not  the  same  thing  as  to  deny  it ;  and  this 
applies  peculiarly  to  the  Gospel  narratives.     Clearly  they 
do  not  record  everything,  often  leaving  what  they  omit 
to  be  supplied   by  tradition,   and   even  by  reason  and 
common  sense.     As  for  another  objection  which  has  been 
made,  that,  if  Joseph  had  accompanied  Mary,  he  would 
have  heard  Elizabeth's  testimony  to  the  Incarnation,  it 
has  little,  if  any,  force.     It  is  not  necessary  to  suppose, 
nor  is  it  likely,  that  Joseph  straightway  followed  Mary 
into  the  interior  of  the  house.      Those  pictures  which 
represent  Elizabeth  as  meeting  the  Blessed  Virgin  at  the 
threshold  and  saluting  her  are  purely  imaginary,  and  do 
not,  in  fact,  accord  with  the  Gospel  statement ;  for  St. 
Luke  tells  us1  that  Mary  ''entered  into  the  house  of 
Zachary,  and  saluted  Elizabeth".     Trombelli  says  that 
the  opinion  that  Joseph  was  not  introduced  along  with 
Mary  into  Elizabeth's  apartments  receives  a  confirmation 
in  the  custom  of  Orientals,  who  assign  separate  rooms  to 
the   women   of  their  families.      Add   to  this,  that  the 
careful  Joseph  would  never  have  allowed  Mary  to  make 
this  long  and  rugged  journey  entirely  on  foot,  but  would 
surely  have  taken  with  them  an  ass  for  her  accommoda- 
tion.    He  would,  therefore,  naturally  on  arriving  have 
1  Chap.  i.  40. 


seen  first  to  providing  this  animal  with  shelter,  and  then 
have  sought  his  kinsman,  Zachary. 

But  it  is,  in  fact,  the  common  belief  that  Joseph  was 
Mary's  companion  on  this  journey.  One  of  the  principal 
,ends  for  which  God  gave  him  to  her  as  her  spouse  was 
that  he  might  always  be  to  her  a  companion  and  guardian, 
a  guide  and  protector,  in  all  the  various  necessities  and 
vicissitudes  of  life.  This  office  had  become  for  him  a 
duty.  It  is  impossible,  then,  to  suppose  that  on  this 
first  grave  occasion  he  could  have  failed  to  fulfil  the 
obligation  which  God  had  laid  upon  him ;  towards  her, 
too,  whom  he  beyond  measure  loved,  and  whom  he 
regarded  as  his  greatest  earthly  treasure.  Can  we 
imagine  his  suffering  her  to  go  without  him,  exposed  to 
all  the  perils  of  the  road  and  to  all  its  inconveniences 
and  discomforts  ?  Joseph,  besides,  was,  as  well  as  Mary, 
the  near  relative  of  Elizabeth,  and  as  desirous  as  Mary 
herself  to  show  her  and  her  husband  cordial  affection. 
What  would  they  have  thought  at  seeing  his-  wife  arrive 
by  herself  ?  Friends  and  relatives,  and,  indeed,  all  who 
knew  them,  would  assuredly  have  had  cause  to  wonder, 
and  to  blame  him  for  his  indifference  and  neglect.  And 
Mary,  too,  brought  up  in  the  sanctuary,  far  from  the 
noise  and  tumult  of  the  world,  bashful  and  timid  as  a 
dove,  who  with  trusting  faith  had  united  herself  to  Joseph, 
to  be  henceforth  his  inseparable  companion,  how  could 
.she  ever  have  consented  to  leave  him,  and,  moreover,  for 
so  long  a  time  ? 

But  it  is  needless  to  go  in  search  of  proof  when  we 
have  the  authority  of  saints  and  doctors  on  our  side, 
St.  Bernardine  of  Siena  and  St.  Bernard  are  entirely 
agreed  upon  this  point,  and  the  latter  enlarges  on  the 
blessedness  of  the  house  which,  contained  such  holy 
persons,  and  on  the  joy  which  Joseph,  in  particular, 
must  have  experienced  in  accompanying  Mary  on  this 
journey.  Isolanp  goes  so  far  as  to  say  that  no  rational 

182  ,     ST.    JOSEPH. 

person,  or  possessed  of  Catholic  feeling,  could  admit  for 
a  moment  that  our  Lady  at  that  tender  age  went  un- 
attended, or  that  Joseph,  for  any  cause  whatever,  could 
have  allowed  his  virgin  spouse  to  make  so  long  a  journey 
without  accompanying  her.1  Gerson,  Vida,  Echius, 
Gaetano,  Salmeron,  and  the  learned  Suarez  held  the 
same  opinion.  We  may  close  the  list  with  St.  Francis 
de  Sales,  who  was  so  devout  to  the  mystery  of  the  Visita- 
tion that  he  desired  that  the  Congregation  of  religious 
women  which  he  founded  should  receive  its  name.  He 
alludes  to  Joseph  being  Mary's  companion  on  the  road  as  to 
an  unquestionable  fact.  Speaking  of  Mary's  haste,  men- 
tioned by  the  Evangelist,  he  says  that  the  first  movements 
of  Him  whom  she  bore  in  her  bosom  must  necessarily 
have  been  most  fervent.  "  0  holy  eagerness,"  he  ex- 
claims, "  in  which  there  is  no  disquiet,  and  which  hastens 
without  hurrying  !  Angels  prepared  to  accompany 
her,  and  Joseph  to  be  her  willing  guide.  I  would  fain 
know  something  of  the  conversation  between  these  two 
great  souls ;  but  I  imagine  Mary  spoke  only  of  Him  of 
whom  she  was  full,  and  breathed  only  the  Saviour ;  and 
St.  Joseph  on  his  part  respired  only  after  the  Saviour,  who 
was  darting  secret  rays  into  his  heart,  awakening  in  it 
a  thousand  inexplicable  feelings,  and,  even  as  the  wine 
enclosed  in  casks  acquires  insensibly  the  odour  of  the 
flowering  vines,  so  the  heart  of  this  holy  Patriarch  ex- 
perienced, without  knowing  how,  the  fragrance,  the  power, 
the  strength  of  the  Divine  Infant  who  had  blossomed  in 
his  fair  vineyard.  O  my  God,  what  a  pilgrimage  !  The 
Saviour  serves  them  as  staff,  food,  and  drink."2 

It  may  have  taken  them  three  days  to  reach  the  city 
where  Elizabeth  and  Zachary  dwelt,  which  is  commonly 
supposed  to  be  Hebron.  It  wras  on  the  mountains  of  Judea, 
and  was  one  of  the  sacerdotal  cities  of  which  the  Lord, 
as  we  learn  in  the  Book  of  Josue,8  allotted  forty-eight  to 
1  De  Donis  S.  Joseph,  p.  ii.  c.  vi.  2  Lettres,  dccxxv.  *  Chap.  xxi.  13,  39. 


the  tribe  of  Levi.  The  Evangelist  calls  it  "  a  city  of 
Juda,"  which  evidently  designates  only  the  name  of  the 
tribe  to  which  it  belonged,  for  there  was  no  city  of  that 
name  in  Israel.  There  was,  it  is  true,  a  city  called  Jota,1 
which  was  also  a  sacerdotal  city,  on  the  mountains  of 
Judea  and  near  to  Hebron.  At  the  period  of  the 
Crusades,  and  even  earlier,  there  was  a  popular  local 
tradition  that  Zachary  and  Elizabeth  dwelt  at  Ain- 
Carem,  which  the  Catholic  pilgrims  called  "  St.  John  on 
the  mountain,"  and  which  was,  perhaps,  identical  with 
the  ancient  Ain  mentioned  by  Josue,  in  connection  with 
Jota  or  Jeta,2  and  distant  from  Jerusalem  scarcely  six 
miles.  In  favour  of  the  claims  of  Ain-Carem  are  the 
sanctuary  of  the  Visitation  of  Mary  to  Elizabeth  existing 
there,  and  another  pointed  out  as  the  birthplace  of  John 
the  Baptist,  as  also  the  spot  where  he  was  concealed 
from  the  rage  of  Herod,  and  the  desert  and  grotto  where 
he  abode  from  his  tenderest  years.  But  no  written 
record  remains  to  testify  to  any  ancient  tradition  on  the 
subject.  The  general  opinion  of  Doctors  is  that  the  city 
of  Juda  mentioned  by  St.  Luke  is  Hebron,  the  ancient 
Cariath-Arbe,3  a  sacerdotal  city,  and  one  of  the  cities  of 
refuge.  It  could  boast  of  the  highest  antiquity,  higher  even, 
it  has  been  said/than  that  of  Memphis.  It  was  the  abode 
of  the  earliest  Patriarchs,  and  when  Abraham  came 
into  the  land  of  Canaan,  he  pitched  his  tent  near  an  oak 
by  the  plain  of  Mambre,  which  is  in  Hebron.4  There  he 
received  the  three  angelic  guests,  who  came  to  promise  to 
him,  in  the  name  of  the  Lord,  that  in  his  seed  all  the 
nations  of  the  earth  should  be  blessed.  Here  it  was,  as 
St.  Jerome  says,  that  he  saw  the  day  of  Christ  and 
rejoiced  to  see  it.  In  Hebron  David  reigned  seven  years 
and  six  months,  and  there  he  was  consecrated  king  in 
the  presence  of  the  ancients  of  all  the  tribes  of  Israel.6 

1  Ibid.,  xv.  55.  2  xxi.  16.  3  xiv.  15  ;  xxi.  11. 

4  Gen.  xiiii.  13.  c  2  Kings  ii.  11 ;  v.  3,  5. 

184  .     ST.    JOSEPH. 

But  never  had  the  hills  of  Hebron  received  so  high  an 
honour  as  when  the  Incarnate  Word  traversed  them 
enclosed  in  the  womb  of  the  most  pure  Virgin,  accom- 
panied by  David's  true  heir  and  the  greatest  of  patriarchs 
and  saints,  her  holy  spouse  Joseph.  The  sacred  bones  of 
Abraham,  Isaac,  Jacob,  Sara,  Eebecca,  and  Lia,  which 
lay  buried  in  the  double  cave  of  Ephron,1  must  have  been 
moved  within  their  tombs  when  Mary  and  Joseph 
approached  and,  in  passing,  piously  saluted  the  venerable 
relics  of  their  ancestors. 

1  Gen.  xxv.  9,  10 ;  xlix.  29-31. 



rPHAT  Elizabeth  was  Mary's  cousin  is  of  faith,  because 
we  have  the  angel's  word  for  it,  as  recorded  in 
the  Gospel.  How  she  was  thus  related  we  learn  from 
tradition.  Jacob,  the  son  of  Mathan  and  father  of 
Joseph,  had  two  sisters,  Anne,  the  happy  mother  of 
Mary,  and  Sobe,  the  mother  of  Elizabeth,  so  that  Mary 
and  Joseph  were  Elizabeth's  cousins  in  the  same  degree. 
That  Sobe  should  have  married  into  the  tribe  of  Levi 
need  cause  no  surprise.  The  law  which  obliged  maidens 
to  marry  in  their  own  tribe  was  peculiarly  stringent  as 
regarded  orphans  or  such  as  were  otherwise  possessed  of 
property,  in  order  to  prevent  the  inheritance  passing  out 
of  their  tribe  ;  but  in  other  cases  there  was  more  licence, 
especially  after  the  return  from  the  Babylonian  captivity, 
when  the  tribes  had  been  almost  entirely  dispersed,  and 
particularly  in  the  case  of  the  tribe  of  Levi,  which  was 
scattered  among  the  rest,  and  had  no  inheritance  apart. 

Immediately  on  arriving,  Mary,  as  the  Evangelist  tells 
us,  entered  the  house  of  Zachary,  and  saluted  her  cousin 
Elizabeth.  Tins  salutation,  as  we  know,  was  followed 
by  the  first  homage  which  the  Divine  Infant  received 
after  that  of  His  Blessed  Mother,  The  babe  in  Eliza- 
beth's womb  heard  and  understood,  and  leaped  for  joy, 
when  straightway,  filled  with  the  Holy  Ghost,  Elizabeth 
exclaimed  :  "  Blessed  art  thou  among  women,  and  blessed 
is  the  fruit  of  thy  womb.  And  whence  is  this  to  me  that 

186  ST.   JOSEPH. 

the  mother  of  my  Lord  should  come  to  me?"1  The 
Blessed  Virgin  then  uttered  that  glorious  canticle  of 
humility  which  the  Church  continues  to  repeat  in  her 
honour.  Mary,  no  doubt,  intreated  her  cousin  not  to 
divulge  the  secret  which  had  been  revealed  to  her.  But 
what  are  we  to  think  of  that  blessed'  house  of  Zachary, 
which  had  now  become  a  sanctuary  of  the  Most  High, 
the  temple  of  God — and  more  than  a  temple,  an  earthly 
paradise?  Its  holy  occupants,  we  may  be  sure,  spent 
the  greater  portion  of  their  time  in  prayer  and  in  the 
praises  of  God,  in  conversing  on  the  Holy  Scriptures  and 
the  ancient  Fathers,  dwelling  specially  on  what  the 
prophets  had  foretold  concerning  the  Messias,  now  so 
soon  expected  to  appear,  but  whom  Mary  and  Elizabeth 
and  the  unborn  Precursor  could  adore  as  already  present. 
The  Paschal  solemnities  must  have  occurred  during  the 
early  part  of  Mary  and  Joseph's  sojourn  at  Hebron,  and 
those  faithful  observers  of  the  Law  will  not  have  failed 
to  fulfil  their  devout  obligation  by  repairing  to  the  Holy 
City  for  a  few  days,  returning  afterwards  to  resume  their 
charitable  offices  in  the  house  of  Zachary.  Mary,  no 
doubt,  would  diligently  assist  Elizabeth  in  preparing  all 
that  would  be  needful  for  the  expected  infant ;  and  what 
a  boon  for  the  Precursor  to  be  enveloped  on  his  birth 
in  the  swaddling-bands  which  her  blessed  hands  had 
fashioned ! 

The  as  yet  dumb  father  must  have  found  a  great 
solace  and  support  in  the  company  of  holy  Joseph. 
Some,  indeed,  of  those  writers  who  are  ready  to  admit 
that  Joseph  accompanied  Mary  on  her  journey  are  dis- 
posed, on  what  would  seem  insufficient  grounds,  to  ques- 
tion his  having  remained  during  the  three  months.  The 
interests  of  his  business  as  carpenter  would,  they  main- 
tain, have  been  alone  reason  enough  for  his  not  absenting 
himself  from  his  workshop  for  so  long  a  time.  But  this 
1  St.  Luke  i.  41-44. 


conclusion  is  based  upon  a  supposition  which  has  heen 
shown  to  be  purely  gratuitous — viz,,  that  Joseph's  means 
were  so  narrow  as  to  necessitate  on  his  part  continual 
daily  toil  for  procuring  sustenance,  when,  as  we  have 
good  reason  to  believe,  it  was  more  from  humility  and 
to  avoid  an  idle  life  that  he  had  embraced  the  humble 
trade  which  he  practised,  than  from  absolute  need. 
Besides,  Zachary  was  a  priest  with  ample  means,  well 
able  to  extend  hospitality  to  a  relative  whose  society  far 
more  than  compensated  him  for  any  additional  outlay 
which  his  presence  could  have  caused.  Would  he,  in- 
deed, have  suffered  him  to  depart  ?  We  can  hardly  con- 
ceive it  to  be  possible.  Moreover,  ever  since  God  had 
committed  to  Joseph  the  charge  of  Mary  as  his  most 
pure  spouse,  there  can  be  no  doubt  that  he  reckoned 
his  station  to  be  wherever  she  was.  How  could  he  other- 
wise acquit  himself  of  his  office  of  her  protector,  guardian, 
and  guide,  an  obligation  so  sacred  in  his  eyes?  But, 
leaving  the  region  of  conjecture,  let  us  have  recourse  to 
authority.  Cardinal  Cajetan,  the  famous  commentator  of 
the  Angelic  Doctor,  clearly  states  that  Mary  went  to  visit 
Elizabeth,  accompanied  by  Joseph,  and  with  him  abode 
three  months  in  the  house  of  Zachary.1  Gerson  had 
previously  held  the  same  view,  after  Gerson  St.  Bernar- 
dine  of  Siena,  and  before  them  both,  St.  Bonaventura  in. 
the  13th  century. 

A  question  has  been  further  raised  as  to  whether  Mary 

remained  with  her  cousin  until  the  birth  of  the  Baptist. 

The   Evangelist   says  that  she  "  abode  with  her  about 

three   months,  and  then  returned  to  her  own  house  ".2 

After  stating  this,  he  narrates  what  occurred  at  the  birth 

|  of  John.     Those  doctors  who  adhere  strictly  to  the  letter 

maintain   that,   from  the  Evangelist's  words,  it  would 

appear  that  Mary  returned  to  Nazareth  before  Elizabeth 

brought  forth  her  son ;  and  they,  moreover,  think  that 

Comment,  in  p.  iii.  D.  Thomce,  q<  xxix.  a.  2.  2  St.  Luke  i.  56 . 

188  ST.    JOSEPH. 

this  was  more  suitable  to  the  most  pure  Virgin  than 
being  present  on  such  an  occasion  and  assisting  at  the 
gathering  of  kinsfolk  and  friends  which  followed.  But 
those  who  attend  to  the  spirit,  as  well  as  to  the  letter, 
hold  that  Mary  waited  for  her  cousin's  delivery.  She 
had  come  for  the  express  purpose  of  assisting  and  con- 
soling her  in  her  condition,  and  is  it  credible  that  she 
should  have  abandoned  her  at  the  last  moment,  to  the 
deep  disappointment  of  the  holy  couple?  Who  would 
impute  to  Mary  virtue  of  so  stiff  an  order  ?  Must  not 
Elizabeth  have  reckoned  on  her  taking  the  infant  into 
her  arms  and  blessing  him  ?  Mary,  surely,  must  have 
desired  to  press  this  child  of  promise  to  her  bosom  ;  and 
the  babe  himself,  who  already,  in  the  obscurity  of  his 
mother's  womb,  had  recognised  the  Son  of  God,  and 
received  the  use  of  reason,  was  he  to  be  denied  the 
happiness  of  adoring  Him  when  he  came  forth  to  the 
light  of  day,  and  of  being  folded  so  close  to  Him  in 
Mary's  embrace?1 

Benedict  XIII.  considered  her  presence  as  the  general 
and  the  most  secure  opinion,  and  it  is  supported  by  the 
authority  of  both  ancient  and  modern  doctors.  Origen, 
Bede,  Comestore,  St.  Bonaventura,  St.  Antoninus  of 
Florence,  Gerson,  St.  Bernardine  of  Siena,  are  all  at  one  on 
this  point,  and  the  opinion  is  also  strenuously  defended  by 
the  learned  P.  Calmet.  St.  Bernardine  of  Siena  assures 
us  that  Mary  did,  indeed,  visit  Elizabeth  in  order  to  serve 
and  assist  her,  but  more  still  to  sanctify  the  Precursor 
of  her  Son,  to  behold  him,  take  him  in  her  arms,  and 
lovingly  tend  him.  St.  Ambrose  had  long  before  ex- 
pressed a  like  opinion,  and  given  us  to  understand  that 
the  object  for  which  Mary  tarried  so  long  at  Hebron  was, 
not  merely  to  be  of  service  to  Elizabeth,  but  mainly  for 
the  spiritual  advantage  of  so  great  a  prophet  as  her  infant 
was  to  be.2  It  is  inconceivable  that,  with  such  an  object 
1  Sermo  de  S.  Joseph,  a.  ii.  c.  L  2  In  Lucam,  cap.  i. 


in  view,  she  should  have  departed  without  caring  to  see 
him,  embrace  and  bless  him,  and  without  remaining  for 
his  circumcision,  thus  not  so  much  as  becoming  ac- 
quainted with  the  name  he  was  to  bear.  Gerson  says 
expressly  that  Mary,  along  with  the  rest  of  her  kindred, 
congratulated  Elizabeth  when  she  had  brought  forth  her 
son,  and  that  from  this  union  Of  congratulation  Joseph  is 
not  to  be  excluded.1  The  order  observed  in  St.  Luke's 
narration  need  form  no  difficulty.  He  finishes  one 
subject  and  returns  to  take  up  another.  Such  inversions 
in  point  of  sequence  of  time  are  common  with  him. 
We  have  two  examples  of  the  kind;  one  in  his 
second  chapter,  where,  after  relating  (v.  18)  how  the 
shepherds  went  away  and  recounted  the  wonders  they 
had  witnessed,  he  goes  back  (v.  20)  to  speak  of  their 
returning  and  glorifying  God  for  all  the  things  they  had 
heard  and  seen ;  the  other,  in  his  third  chapter,  where, 
after  saying  (w.  19,  20)  that  John  was  cast  into  prison 
by  Herod  the  Tetrarch,  he  goes  back  (v.  21)  to  speak  of 
his  baptising  our  Lord  in  the  Jordan. 

As  for  the  objection  to  Mary's  presence  on  account  of 
her  virginity,  we  must  remember  that  in  the  eyes  of  the 
world  there  could  be  no  impropriety,  since  she  occupied 
the  position  of  a  married  woman,  while  in  the  eyes  of 
the  angels,  and,  indeed,  of  all  who  knew  her,  she  was  a 
pattern  of  modesty.  As  regards  herself,  therefore, 
suffice  it  to  say,  "  To  the  clean  all  things  are  clean  ".* 
Maria  d'Agreda  says  that  Mary  was  not  actually  present 
at  the  infant's  birth, — his  mother,  out  of  reverence  to  her 
and  the  Incarnate  Word,  not  having  requested  her  to  be 
so, — but  was  engaged  in  prayer  while  the  delivery  took 
place.  Then,  bidden  interiorly  by  our  Lord,  she  at  once 
repaired  to  Elizabeth's  bedside,  and  received  the  new- 
born child  into  her  arms,  at  his  mother's  desire,  offering 
him  to  the  Eternal  Father.  Maria  d'Agreda  adds  that, 
1  Serm.  de  Nativ.  Virg.  Marice,  Consid.  ill.  2  Titus  i.  15. 

190  ST.    JOSEPH. 

unperceived  by  others,  Mary,  while  thus  engaged,  was  in 
an  ecstasy,  and,  so  long  as  it  lasted,  the  happy  babe  lay 
upon  her  bosom,  on  which  so  soon  the  Son  of  God  was 
to  repose.  The  child  understood  all,  and,  so  far  as  he 
was  able,  testified  his  joy  and  solicited  the  caresses  of 
God's  holy  Mother,  and  Mary  caressed  and  blessed  him, 
but  never  once  kissed  him — the  "  kisses  of  her  mouth  "  x 
she  reserved  for  her  Divine  Son. 

Again,  as  for  Mary's  association  with  the  congratu- 
latory meeting  of  kindred  and  friends,  her  withdrawal, 
we  must  recollect,  would  have  been  an  ungracious  act, 
according  to  Jewish  notions ;  and,  indeed,  had  she  not 
already  been  at  Hebron,  it  would,  probably,  have  been 
incumbent  on  her,  if  possible,  to  repair  thither  for  the 
purpose.  There  is,  moreover,  nothing  in  our  Lady's 
whole  life  to  make  us  view  her  retirement  and  solitude 
as  of  that  austere  order  which  would  exclude  the  cour- 
tesies of  life.  Do  we  not  find  her  afterwards  at  the 
marriage-feast  of  Cana,  and  interesting  herself  so  much 
in  what  would  be  felt  important  by  the  givers  and  par- 
takers of  the  festivity,  as  even  to  obtain  a  miracle  in 
their  favour  from  her  Divine  Son,  and  that  His  first 
public  miracle  ? 

But  enough  of  this.  Mary  and  Joseph  must  have 
remained  until  after  the  infant's  circumcision,  and  been 
present  at  the  wonders  which  accompanied  it :  the 
unloosening  of  Zachary's  tongue,  and  the  glorious  can- 
ticle in  which,  filled  with  the  Holy  Ghost,  he  burst  forth 
announcing  the  coming  Messias,  and  the  office  which  the 
child  John  was  to  fill.  Mary  and  Elizabeth  would  have 
comprehended  the  full  import  of  Zachary's  prophecy, 
and  their  hearts  must  have  overflowed  with  joy.  Joseph, 
too,  must  have  rejoiced  exceedingly  that  the  Orient 
from  on  high,  the  Eedeemer  of  Israel,  was  at  hand, 
though  as  yet  he  knew  not  that  He  had  become  incarnate 
1  Canticles  i.  1. 


in  Mary's  womb.  But,  as  we  are  more  than  once  told 
in  the  Gospel  that  Mary  pondered  in  her  heart  the 
words  she  heard,1  so  also  must  we  fain  believe  that  Joseph, 
who  was  so  like  to  her,  also  dwelt  interiorly  upon  what 
he  had  seen,  and  heard  in  the  house  of  Zachary,  as 
together  the  two  holy  spouses  made  their  homeward 
journey  to  Nazareth. 

i  St.  Luke  ii.  19,  51. 



HAVING  regained  their  home,  Mary  and  Joseph 
resumed  their  former  tenour  of  life — their  occupa- 
tions, their  labours,  their  exercises  of  piety,  with  even 
increased  fervour.  The  poor  and  the  sick  rejoiced  at 
their  return,  for  in  them  they  beheld  their  constant 
benefactors.  All  superfluities,  the  fruit  of  Joseph's  toil 
— that  is,  all  that  was  not  strictly  needed  for  the  main- 
tenance of  Mary  and  himself — were  regarded  as  their 
patrimony.  His  hands  laboured  for  it,  and  her  hands 
dispensed  it.  Like  her  mystical  figure  in  the  Proverbs, 
"  she  opened  her  hand  to  the  needy  and  stretched  out 
her  hands  to  the  poor  ;  and  the  law  of  clemency  was  on 
her  tongue," l  that  kindness  which  adds  such  sweetness  to 
a  gift,  and  is  itself  an  alms  more  prized  by  the  suffering 
than  even  the  material  relief.  Neighbours  and  friends, 
too,  rejoiced  to  see  them  again,  for  their  goodness,  gentle- 
ness, and  courtesy  had  endeared  them  to  all. 

The  nearer  the  time  approached  for  Mary's  divine 
delivery,  the  more  exalted  were  the  graces  of  which  she 
was  the  privileged  recipient.  Not  only  was  she  continually 
favoured  by  familiar  visits  of  angels,  who  came  to  adore 
and  serve  the  Incarnate  Word  within  her,  but  we  have 
reason  to  regard  as  most  true  what  saints  have  asserted, 
that  she  was  admitted  at  times,  so  far  as  is  possible  for  a 
human  creature  still  abiding  on  earth,  to  behold  God  in 

1  Chap.  xxxi.  20,  26. 

HIS   TBIAL.  193 

His  Divine  Essence.  That  great  authority,  Suarez,  says, 
"  I  affirm  that  it  may  be  piously  and  with  probability 
believed  that  the  Blessed  Virgin  was  in  this  life  some- 
times elevated  for  a  short  space  to  the  clear  vision  of  the 
Divine  Essence  ".* 

Nor  need  this  surprise  us  when  we  consider  that, 
with  the  exception  of  the  hypostatic  union,  there  could 
be  none  more  intimate,  more  sublime,  than  that  which 
existed  between  Mary  and  the  Incarnate  Word,2  the 
flesh  of  Christ  being  the  flesh  of  Mary;  from  whence, 
indeed,  St.  Thomas  deduces  that  the  Blessed  Virgin, 
being  the  Mother  of  God,  possesses  a  certain  infinite 
dignity  derived  from  the  Infinite  Good,  which  is  God  ; 3 
and  Suarez  says  that  "  the  dignity  of  the  Mother  of  God 
is  in  its  kind  infinite  ". 4 

Joseph,  meanwhile,  in  the  midst  of  his  labours  and  his 
poverty  esteemed  himself  superlatively  rich,  because  in 
Mary  he  possessed  the  rarest  and  most  precious  treasure 
on  earth.  Her  presence  was  paradise  to  him.  One  glance 
from  her  countenance  of  heavenly  modesty  and  of  the 
glory  which  beamed  from  it  was  sufficient  to  kindle  in  his 
soul  the  fire  of  divine  charity  such  as  burns  in  a  seraph  ; 
the  sound  of  her  voice,  which  had  awakened  to  the  light 
both  of  reason  and  of  grace  the  unborn  infant,  must  have 
made  his  heart  often  bound  within  his  bosom.  He  felt 
the  nearness  of  God  in  her,  and  was  blessed  beyond 
expression.  As,  however,  it  is  scarcely  given  to  mortals 
to  enjoy  for  long  such  perfect  felicity  on  earth,  we  may 
well  imagine  that  the  fear  of  losing  it  could  not  have  been 
absent  from  his  mind,  and  that  a  strange  prescience 
concerning  his  virgin  spouse,  fostered  by  all  he  had 
recently  seen  and  heard,  may  have  dwelt  in  its  secret 
depths.  Eespecting  these  things,  and  many  more, 
Scripture  is  silent,  though  the  veil  has  been  lifted  at 

1  In  p.  iii.  disp.  xix.  sect.  iv.     2  B.  Dionys.  Garth,  lib.  ii.  De  Laud.  Virg. 
3  Sicmma,  p.  i.  q.  xxv.  art.  6.  4  In  p.  iii.  disp.  xviii.  sect  iv. 


194  ST.    JOSEPH. 

times    in    the  visions    with   which    saints    have    been 

Thoughts  such  as  these  he  may  have  pondered  on 
after  their  return  from  Hebron,  when  one  day  the  fact  of 
the  pregnancy  of  his  most  pure  spouse  flashed  upon  him 
unmistakably.  We  will  adhere  to  the  Gospel  words, 
for  nothing  is  said  in  vain  :  "  She  was  found  with  child 
of  the  Holy  Ghost".1  "By  whom,"  asks  St.  Jerome, 
"was  she  found  with  child?  Certainly  by  no  one  but 
Joseph."2  Others  would  never  have  supposed  that  she 
had  conceived  by  Divine  power,  but  would  have  recog- 
nised in  her  condition  nothing  but  the  natural  fruit  of  a 
lawful  marriage.  Not  so  her  spouse  Joseph.  He  was 
well  acquainted  with  the  inviolable  virginity  of  Mary. 
He  also  knew  well  what  was  her  unapproachable  sanc- 
tity. He  knew  that  she  lived  an  angel's  life  on  earth. 
What  wonder,  then,  if  what  he  beheld  should  have 
suggested  to  him  the  thought  that  possibly  she  was  the 
destined  mother  of  the  Messias,  the  Virgin  foretold  by 
the  prophet  Isaias,  who  was  to  bring  forth  the  Emmanuel ! 
Joseph,  we  must  remember,  was  deeply  versed  in  the 
Divine  Scriptures,  and,  according  to  St.  Francis  de  Sales, 
was  wiser  than  Solomon.  Not  he  alone,  but  others  far 
less  enlightened  than  he  was  were  anxiously  looking  out 
at  that  period  for  the  coming  of  the  Eedeemer.3  All  knew 
that  He  was  to  be  of  the  tribe  of  Juda  and  of  the  house 
of  David,  and  all  who  were  familiar  with  the  prophecy 
of  Isaias  must  have  known  that  He  would  be  born  of  a 
virgin.  Moreover,  Joseph  must  have  recalled  all  that 
had  preceded  and  accompanied  his  espousals  with  Mary ; 
and  that  which  had  taken  place  in  the  house  of  Zachary, 
whom  he  had  heard  declaring  by  the  movement  of  the 
Holy  Ghost  that  the  child  miraculously  given  to  him 
was  to  go  before  the  face  of  the  Highest,  must  have  been 

1  St.  Matthew  i.  18.  2  Comment,  in  Matihceum,  cap.  i. 

3  St.  Luke  ii.  25,  38. 

HIS    TRIAL.  195 

fresh  in  his  memory.      Does   it   not,  then,  seem   most 
highly  probable  that  all  these  signs  and  tokens  combined 
must  have  brought  wonderful  evidence  to  the  mind  of 
Joseph  concerning  the  mystery  attaching  to  Mary's  state? 
And  not  only  must  we  feel  this  to  be  highly  probable, 
but  it  is  even  difficult  to  imagine  that  it  could  have  been 
otherwise.     A  thought  which  in  other  men  might  have 
awakened  feelings  of  self-complacency,  pride,  and  exulta- 
tion, in  the  most  humble  Joseph  caused  such  confusion, 
and  what  we  may  call  dismay,  that  we  may  imagine  him 
repeating  to  himself  words  such  as  these  :  "  The  Mother  • 
of  God  my  spouse  !     The  Son  of  the  Most  High  born  in 
my  house! "     No,  such  an  honour  was  not  for  him.     His 
place  was  not  there.     Could  he  in  the  face  of  the  world 
continue  to  accept,  recognise,  and  treat  Mary  as  his  wife, 
who  had  conceived  by  the  power  of  the  Holy  Ghost  ? 
Could  he  appear  to  claim  as  his  son  the  Holy  One  who 
was  to  be  born  of  her  ?     He  shrank  with  holy  consterna- 
tion from  the  very  idea.     In  his  just  mind  such  conduct 
assumed  the  appearance  of  acting  out  an  impious  false- 
hood.1    No,  his  place  was  not  there.     What  could  he  do, 
then,  but  privately  depart,  and  go  to  hide  himself  among 
the  deserts  and  solitudes  of  the  Jordan,  there  to  weep 
over   his   own   unworthiness  ?      Such,  we  may  believe, 
must  have  been  the  thoughts  which  filled  Joseph's  mind 
when  he  made  this  discovery,  and  not  that  distressing 
alternation  of  doubts  and  suspicions  of  the  fidelity  of  his 
immaculate  spouse  which  some  pious  orators  have  dwelt 
upon,  causing  pain,  we  cannot  but  think,  to  many  of  their 
devout  hearers. 

It  is  true  that  some  of  the  ancient  Fathers  held  that 
doubts  and  perplexities  concerning  Mary's  state  arose  in 

1  F.  Coleridge  in  his  volume  entitled  The  Nine  Months,  chap.  xiii. , 
has  admirably  drawn  out  and  explained  the  trial  of  St.  Joseph,  and 
in  particular  has  shown  most  lucidly  how  he  could  not  venture,  to 
take  upon  himself  the  high  office  which  would  have  sprung  out  of 
the  changed  relationship  between  him  and  Mary. 

196  ST.    JOSEPH. 

Joseph's  mind,1  but  the  more  general  opinion  of  Doctors 
and  Fathers,  ancient  and  modern,  coincides  with  that 
which  we  do  not  scruple  to  adopt,  namely,  that  Joseph 
thought  of  withdrawing  secretly  from  the  Virgin  out  of 
reverence  to  the  Divine  Maternity.  The  first  view  is 
grounded  on  the  letter  of  the  text,  viewed  on  its  surface ; 
the  second  also  rests  on  the  letter  of  the  text,  but  care- 
fully examined ;  whereby  it  is  plain  that,  so  far  from 
contradicting,  it  is  really  favourable  to  the  view  which  is 
most  honourable  to  Mary  as  well  as  most  worthy  of 
Joseph.  It  also  removes,  or  rather  precludes,  all  those 
difficulties  which  the  other  various  interpretations  raise 
without  solving.  We  will,  then,  examine  the  text  a  little 
in  detail. 

We  have  just  observed  that  the  Eyangelist  distinctly 
says  that  Mary  was  found  to  have  conceived  of  the  Holy 
Ghost.  But  Joseph  alone  could  have  known  this, 
because  he  alone  knew  of  the  mutual  vow  of  virginity 
which  together  they  had  made.  Others  could  never  have 
imagined  the  existence  of  this  vow.  The  text  proceeds  : 
"  Whereupon  Joseph,  her  husband  "  ;  and  here  we  will 
pause  to  notice  once  more  how  Joseph  is  expressly  called 
her  "husband".  What  is  narrated  cannot,  therefore, 
have  taken  place  in  the  interval  between  the  betrothal 
and  the  nuptials,  as  some  have  maintained.  Had  this 
been  so,  the  discovery  of  Mary's  state  would  have  been 

1  Several  of  the  early  Fathers  speak  of  the  painful  perplexity  of 
Joseph  in  what  may  be  called  ambiguous  terms,  one  while  asserting 
that  he  could  not  doubt  the  chastity  of  Mary  and  at  another  that 
he  could  not  question  the  evidence  of  his  senses.  St.  Augustine,  in 
particular,  certainly  uses  words  implying  that  Joseph  was  tried  by 
doubts  of  the  fidelity  of  his  spouse,  and  that  these  were  the  cause 
of  his  resolution  to  abandon  her.  But  the  opinion  of  one  Father, 
however  eminent,  cannot  outweigh  the  contrary  belief  of  many 
others  equally  learned.  St.  Jerome,  for  instance,  was  St.  Augus- 
tine's contemporary,  and  was  a  strenuous  maintainer  of  Joseph's 
confidence  in  Mary's  innocence.  Now,  he,  if  any  one,  must  have 
been  thoroughly  acquainted  with  the  traditions  of  Palestine,  and 
had  made  the  deepest  study  of  the  text  of  Scripture. 

HIS    TRIAL.  197 

made  by  others,  not  by  Joseph,  as  she  could  not  have 
been  residing  with  him.  Add  to  which,  that  their  mar- 
riage, which,  according  to  this  view,  took  place  immedi- 
ately after  the  angel's  appearance  to  Joseph,  would  not 
have  shielded  the  honour  of  our  Lady.1  The  birth  of 
Jesus  less  than  six  months  after  their  union  would  have 
been  a  circumstance  sure  not  to  be  forgotten  in  Nazareth. 
Now,  the  legitimacy  of  His  birth  was  never  questioned 
by  His  unbelieving  countrymen,  or  the  slightest  slur  ever 
cast  upon  Him  or  Mary,  His  mother,  by  His  malicious 
enemies,  who  would  have  been  sure  to  avail  themselves 
of  any  report  of  this  kind  had  it  ever  existed. 

To   continue.      The    Evangelist   says :    "  Whereupon 

1  St.  Matthew  i.  18-25.  Those  who  suppose  that  Joseph  was  as 
yet  only  betrothed  to  Mary  when  she  was  "  found  with  child  "  avail 
themselves  of  the  expression,  "  antequam  convenerunt — before  they 
came  together".  They  say  that  it  shows  that  Joseph  and  Mary 
were  living  apart,  not  being  yet  married,  but  that  after  the  angel's 
appearance  to  Joseph  in  his  sleep  (v.  20)  the  nuptials  were  cele- 
brated and  he  took  her  to  his  home.  What  such  a  view  involves  is 
shown  above.  As  for  the  expression  in  question,  it  must  be  regarded 
in  the  same  light  as  that  which  occurs  in  a  subsequent  passage  (v. 
25)  ;  where  it  is  said  :  ' '  And  he  knew  her  not  till  she  brought  forth 
her  first-born  son  "  :  with  regard  to  which  it  will  suffice  to  quote  the 
note  appended  thereto  in  the  Douai  version:  "From  these  words 
Helvetius  and  other  heretics  most  impiously  inferred  that  the 
Blessed  Virgin  Mary  had  other  children  besides  Christ.  But  St. 
Jerome  shows,  by  divers  examples,  that  this  expression  of  the  Evan- 
gelist was  a  manner  of  speaking  usual  among  the  Hebrews,  to  denote 
by  the  word  until  only  what  is  done  without  any  regard  to  the 
future.  Thus  it  is  said  (Gen.  viii.  6,  7)  that  '  Noe  sent  forth  a  raven, 
which  went  forth  and  did  not  return  till  the  waters  were  dried  up 
on  the  earth  ' ;  that  is,  did  not  return  any  more.  Also  (Isaias  xlvi. 
4)  God  says,  '  I  am  till  you  grow  old  '.  Who  dare  infer  that  God 
should  then  cease  to  be  ?  Also  in  1  Machabees  v.  54  :  '  And  they 
went  up  to  Mount  Sion  with  joy  and  gladness,  and  offered  holocausts, 
because  not  one  of  them  was  slain  till  they  had  returned  in  peace  ' ; 
that  is,  not  one  was  slain  before  or  after  they  had  returned.  Again, 
God  saith  to  His  Divine  Son  (Psalm  cix.  1)  :  '  Sit  Thou  on  My  right 
hand  till  I  make  Thine  enemies  Thy  footstool '.  Shall  He  sit  no 
longer  after  His  enemies  are  subdued  ?  Yea.  and  for  all  eternity. 
St.  Jerome  also  proves,  by  Scripture  examples,  that  an  '  only- 
begotten  son  '  was  also  called  '  first-born '  or  '  first-begotten  ' 
because,  according  to  the  Law,  the  first-born  males  were  to  be  con- 
secrated to  God  (Exod.  xiii.  2)." 

198  ST   JOSEPH. 

Joseph,  her  husband,  being  a  just  man,  and  not  willing 
publicly  to  expose  her,  was  minded  to  put  her  away 
privately,"  or,  in  other  words,  separate  himself  from 
her  and  leave  her;  for  the  Greek  word  rendered  in  the 
Vulgate  by  dimittere  has  this  signification,  as  may  be  often 
seen  in  Scripture.  It  is  the  word,  for  instance,  used 
in  the  Gospel  of  St.  Matthew  xix.  5:  "For  this  cause 
shall  a  man  leave  (dimittet)  father  and  mother,"  where, 
assuredly,  the  term  dimittet  could  not  signify  to  put  away 
or  divorce.  Neither  can  it  be  the  meaning  in  the  case  of 
which  we  are  speaking.  Joseph  could  not  have  repu- 
diated Mary  by  a  private  bill  of  divorce,  or  any  other 
form,  without  its  becoming  known,  and  therefore  without 
defaming  or  publicly  exposing  her,  the  very  thing  which, 
it  is  said,  he  was  not  willing  to  do. 

Then,  again,  as  regards  Joseph  being  a  just  man,  which 
is  the  reason  given  why  he  did  not  act  in  this  manner 
by  his  spouse,  the  text  does  not  say  that  he  was  com- 
passionate ;  it  does  not  say  that  he  was  merciful ;  nor 
does  it  use  any  expression  which  might  seem  to  counte- 
nance the  idea  that  there  was  anything  to  forgive  or  con- 
done on  his  part.  It  says  simply  that  he  was  just.  But 
the  epithet  "  just,"  according  to  St.  Jerome  and  the  other 
Fathers,  signified  (as  we  have  already  seen1)  the  perfect 
possession  of  all  the  virtues.  In  every  case  it  would,  at 
least,  point  to  a  faithful  fulfilment  of  all  the  injunctions 
of  God's  law.  St.  Luke  describes  Zachary  and  Elizabeth 
as  being  both  of  them  "  just  before  God,  walking  in  all 
the  commandments  and  justifications  of  the  Lord  without 
blame  "  ;2  that  is,  fulfilling  all  the  precepts  of  the  Law 
of  Moses.  Now,  the  Law  of  Moses  did  not  leave  to  a 
man  the  choice  either  of  retaining  his  wife,  if  guilty  of 
adultery,  or  even  of  concealing  her  crime,  if  it  became 
known  to  him.  If  Joseph,  then,  did  not  denounce  Mary, 
and  was  desirous  that  no  suspicion  should  be  directed  to 

1  See  chapter  xv.  2  Chap.  i.  6. 

HIS   TRIAL.  199 

her,  it  is  manifest  that  he  did  not  himself  suspect  her  of 
infidelity  ;  otherwise  the  epithet  "just  "  would  not  have 
been  strictly  applicable  to  him,  since  he  would  not  have 
been  an  exact  observer  of  the  Law,  in  that  he  sought  to 
conceal  the  sins  of  others.1  St.  Jerome  uses  this  very 
argument  in  defence  of  Joseph.  "  If,"  he  says,  "  it  was 
a  precept  of  the  Law  that,  not  only  the  guilty,  but  those 
who  had  knowledge  of  their  guilt,  were  under  the  penalty 
of  sin,  how  could  Joseph,  in  concealing  the  sin  of  his 
wife,  be  styled  just  ? 2  Yet  it  was  precisely  because  he 
was  just  that  he  would  not  denounce  her,  being  persuaded 
that  she  was  innocent,  and  that,  if  she  were  with  child, 
it  was  through  the  power  of  God.  But,  if  she  were 
innocent,  why  does  he  not  remain  with  her  ?  The  reason, 
as  we  have  said,  is  clear.  Having  become  persuaded 
from  so  many  signs  that  she  is  the  mother  of  the  Messias, 
he,  reckoning  himself  unworthy  to  abide  under  the  same 
roof  with  her,  and  with  the  Desired  of  all  nations,  comes 
to  the  determination  to  leave  her  privily,  so  that  her 
reputation  may  remain  undamaged.  Had  he  abandoned 
her  publicly  how  many  questions  and  suspicions  concern- 
ing the  motives  of  his  behaviour  would  have  arisen  ! 
But,  departing  thus  quietly,  people  might  naturally  sup- 
pose that  his  work  had  called  him  away  for  a  time,  and 
that  he  was  executing  some  order  which  he  had  received 
in  the  neighbourhood,  or,  possibly,  that  for  some  cause 
or  another  he  was  making  a  fresh  journey  into  Judea. 

Still,  it  may  be  asked,  how  could  Joseph  have  the 
heart  to  forsake  a  wife  so  tenderly  beloved,  and  in  such 
a  condition ;  leaving  her,  too,  without  a  companion  and 
without  aid  amidst  all  her  trials?  Did  he  not  give  a 
thought  to  the  grief  which  he  would  cause  her?  Yes, 
Joseph  we  may  be  sure  thought  of  everything,  but  the 
awe  and  reverence  he  felt  at  the  presence  of  an  Incarnate 

1  Levit.  v.  1  ;  Prov.  xviii.  22. 
2  Comment,  in  Matthceum,  cap.  i. 

200  ST.    JOSEPH. 

God  was  more  powerful  in  him  than  the  love  and  tender- 
ness he  bore  his  spouse.  Without  ceasing,  therefore, 
to  love  her,  he  meditated  concealing  himself  from  her 
sight,  convinced  that,  having  with  her  a  God,  she  had 
greater  aid,  security,  and  comfort,  and  better  company, 
than  he  could  have-  afforded  her.  This  separation 
was  a  great  sacrifice  to  him,  and  caused  him  unutter- 
able pain,  but  it  seemed  to  him  to  be  necessary,  and 
he  purposed  to  effect  it. 

Now,  having  seen  that  the  Gospel  text,  so  far  from 
being  opposed  to  the  interpretation  we  advocate,  is 
favourable  to  it,  we  will  refer  to  the  Fathers.  If  we  are 
to  credit  so  great  a  saint  and  doctor  of  the  Church  as  St. 
Bernard,  there  is  a  very  general  agreement  among  them 
on  the  subject.  He  reasons  thus  :  "  For  what  cause  did 
Joseph  think  of  leaving  Mary?  Hear  upon  this  point, 
not  my  opinion,  but  that  of  the  Fathers.  Joseph  wished 
to  separate  himself  from  Mary  for  the  same  reason  as 
made  Peter  desire  to  leave  the  Lord,  when  he  said, 
'  Depart  from  me,  for  I  ana  a  sinful  man,  O  Lord ' ; l 
and  for  which  the  centurion  would  dissuade  Him  from 
coming  into  his  house,  saying,  '  Lord,  I  am.  not  worthy 
that  Thou  shouldest  enter  under  my  roof  '.2  In  like 
manner,  Joseph,  reputing  himself  a  sinner  and  unworthy, 
did  not  think  it  fitting  to  live  familiarly  with  one  whose 
surpassing  dignity  inspired  him  with  awe.  With  a 
sacred  dread  he  beheld  in  her  the  indubitable  token  of 
the  Divine  Presence,  and,  as  he  could  not  fathom  the 
mystery,  he  desired  to  leave  her.  Peter  was  confounded 
at  the  greatness  of  the  Divine  power,  the  centurion  by 
the  majesty  of  the  Divine  presence  ;  and  Joseph  also,  as 
a  man,  was  struck  with  fear  at  the  strangeness  of  so 
great  a  mystery,  and  therefore  was  minded  privily  to 
leave  her.  Do  you  marvel  that  Joseph,  beholding  her 
pregnancy,  should  esteem  himself  unworthy  to  abide 

1  St.  Luke  v.  8.  2  Ibid.  vii. 

HIS   TRIAL.  201 

with  his  virgin  spouse  when  you  hear  St.  Elizabeth, 
unable  to  sustain  her  presence  without  trepidation  and 
awe,  exclaiming,  '  Whence  is  this  to  me  that  the  Mother 
of  my  Lord  should  come  to  me?'"1  Thus  St.  Bernard. 
His  words  need  no  comment. 

But  who  are  the  Fathers  to  whom  he  alludes  ?  There 
are  an  Origen,  a  Jerome,  a  Basil,  a  Eemigius,  author  of 
a  fragmentary  work  which  has  been  attributed  to  St. 
Chrysostom,  a  Theophylact,  and  others.  "  Joseph," 
says  Eemigius,  "  sees  that  his  spouse  has  conceived  ;  he 
beholds  with  child  her  whom  he  knows  to  be  chaste  ; 
and,  because  he  had  read  in  the  Prophets,  '  There  shall 
come  forth  a  rod  out  of  the  root  of  Jesse,  and  a  flower 
shall  rise  up  out  of  his  root/  2  he  did  not  question  or 
doubt  but  that  this  prediction  was  about  to  be  fulfilled 
in  her."  And  again,  elsewhere  he  exclaims,  "  More  pos- 
sible does  Joseph  believe  it  that  a  woman  should  conceive 
without  the  concurrence  of  man,  than  that  Mary  should 
sin  ".3  To  the  names  we  have  mentioned  we  may  add 
those  of  Aimon,  St.  Thomas  Aquinas,  Gerson,  St.  Ber- 
nardine  of  Siena,  and  Isidore  Isolano.  Here  are  St. 
Thomas's  words  :  "  Holy  Joseph  pondered  in  his  humi- 
lity not  to  continue  to  dwell  with  so  much  sanctity".4 
But,  leaving  all  the  rest,  let  us  listen  to  the  great  Doctor 
of  the  Church,  St.  Francis  de  Sales.  Echoing  the  senti- 
ments of  St.  Bernard  and  the  other  Fathers,  he  writes 
thus  :  "  The  humility  of  St.  Joseph,  .as  St.  Bernard  ex- 
plains, was  the  cause  of  his  desiring  to  abandon  our  Lady 
when  he  perceived  her  to  be  with  child.  St.  Bernard 
says  that  he  reasoned  thus  within  himself  :  '  What  is 
—this  ?  I  know  that  she  is  a  virgin,  for  together  we  took 
the  vow  of  preserving  our  virginity  and  our  purity,  in 
which  she  would  certainly  not  have  failed.  On  the  other 

1  St.  Luke  i.  43.     Super  Missus  est,  Horn.  ii.  sect.  14. 

2  Isaias  xi.  1.  3  Comment,  in  Matthceum. 

4  P.  iv.  disp.  xxx.  q.  ii.  a.  2. 

202  ST.    JOSEPH. 

hand,  I  perceive  that  she  is  with  child,  that  she  is  a 
mother.  And  how  can  maternity  and  virginity  subsist 
together  ?  How  should  not  virginity  he  an  obstacle  to 
maternity  ?  Might  it  be,  he  then  said,  that  she  is  that 
glorious  Virgin  of  whom  the  Prophet  declares  that  she 
shall  conceive  and  bring  forth  the  Messias  ?  If  this  be 
so,  far  be  it  from  me  to  abide  any  longer  with  her,  I  who 
am  unworthy  to  do  so.  It  were  better  that  I  should 
secretly  leave  her  on  account  of  my  unworthiness,  and 
not  live  any  longer  in  her  company.'  Marvellous  senti- 
ment of  humility !  "l 

1  Entretien,  xix. 

(  203  ) 


WE  are  told  that  Joseph  had  such  complete  command 
of  all  his  senses  that  they  never  participated  in  or 
betrayed  the  movements  of  his  inward  self,  but  that  on 
all  occasions  he  behaved  with  the  same  unvarying 
equanimity.  Accordingly,  he  concealed  from  Mary  the 
trouble  which  he  was  enduring,  but.  she  was  interiorly 
cognisant  of  it,  and,  knowing  well  his  reverential  spirit, 
she  knew  also  that  he  was  meditating  some  step  which 
would  be  most  painful  to  her.  Why,  then,  does  she  not 
reveal  her  secret  to  him  ?  Why  does  she  not  re-assure  and 
tranquillise  his  mind?  Should  she  delay  much  longer, 
she  may  be  too  late.  To-morrow,  before  the  dawn  of  day, 
Joseph  will  have  crossed  the  threshold  of  his  home,  and 
gone  forth  a  wanderer  on  the  face  of  the  earth.  What, 
then,  is  the  Holy  Virgin  doing?  She  is  silent.  She 
knows  the  faith  of  Joseph,  his  humility,  his  perplexity, 
his  confusion,  and  it  pains  her  acutely  that  she  cannot 
console  him ;  yet  she  perseveres  in  her  silence,  because 
she  does  not  think  herself  authorised  to  speak,  and 
because  she  shrinks  from  uttering  her  own  praises.  She 
remembers  that  the  angel  did  not  give  her  permission  to 
divulge  the  mystery.  The  secret  of  God  must  be  kept, 
and  if  He  should  be  pleased  to  make  it  known,  He  will 
Himself  reveal  it  to  Joseph,  as  He  did  to  Elizabeth  and 
to  the  unborn  infant,  John.  She  is  silent,  therefore,  and 
waits.  She  knows  how  to  wait ;  not  like  Saul,  who  lost  a, 
kingdom  and  God's  favour  because  he  could  not  wait. 

204  ST.    JOSEPH. 

Patience  is  an  attribute  of  holy  souls.  Saul  lacked  it. 
"  Forced  by  necessity,"  he  said,  "  I  offered  the  holo- 
caust."1 The  Queen  of  Saints  knows  of  no  necessity 
save  that  which  constrains  her  to  wait  on  God.  In  her 
patience  she  possesses  her  soul,  but  she  prays,  and  that 
in  great  anguish  of  spirit,  and  fervently  implores  her 
Divine  Son,  whom  she  bears  in  her  bosom,  speedily  to 
free  Joseph  from  so  great  suffering,  to  enlighten  him,  and 
send  him  counsel  and  comfort  in  his  trial. 

Mary's  prayer  was  quickly  heard  and  granted,  for  the 
interpreters  of  Holy  Writ  consider  that  Joseph  was  left 
but  a  short  time  in  this  state  of  perturbation ;  indeed, 
according  to  an  ancient  Eastern  legend,  not  a  single  night 
was  allowed  to  pass  before  he  was  delivered  from  it,  an 
opinion  which  the  wording  of  the  text  may  be  almost 
said  to  favour:  "  But  while  he  thought  on  these  things, 
behold  the  Angel  of  the  Lord  appeared  to  him  in  his 
sleep,  saying,  '  Joseph,  son  of  David,  fear  not  to  take 
unto  thee  Mary  thy  wife,  for  that  which  is  conceived  in 
her  is  of  the  Holy  Ghost.  And  she  shall  bring  forth  a 
son ;  and  thou  shalt  call  His  name  Jesus :  for  He  shall 
save  His  people  from  their  sins  ".2  This  is  the  first  time 
that  we  hear  of  an  angel  appearing  to  Joseph,  but  it  does 
not  follow  that  he  had  never  previously  received  a  heavenly 
visit.  It  does  not  appear  to  have  excited  any  wonder  in 
him,  as  in  one  not  conversant  with  angelic  communications, 
for  he  immediately  recognised  the  messenger  who  addressed 
him  as  being  sent  by  God,  although  he  spoke  to  him  only 
in  his  sleep.  Hence  we  may  form  a  high  estimate  of 
Joseph's  faith,  to  whom  so  little  sufficed  to  make  him 
believe.  The  angel  was,  doubtless,  Gabriel,  who  had 
already  appeared  to  Mary,  and  he  knew  how  to  convey  to 
the  mind  of  Joseph  such  certainty  of  his  mission  as  to 
leave  no  room  for  doubt.  But  this  implies  a  correspond- 
ing state  of  mind  in  Joseph,  a  holy  preparation  of  soul 
1  1  Kings  xiii.  12.  2  St.  Matthew  i.  20,  21. 

HIS   VISION.  205 

which  rendered  him  alive  to  spiritual  influences,  for  God 
never  forces  conviction  upon  any  one ;  it  implies  that 
Joseph  was  a  discerner  of  spirits,  and  it  may  even  be  said 
a  prophet,  for  in  the  Book  of  Numbers  the  Lord  said:  "If 
there  be  among  you  a  prophet  of  the  Lord,  I  will  appear 
to  him  in  a  vision,  or  I  will  speak  to  him  in  a  dream  ". * 
It  will  be  observed,  too,  that  the  angel  called  him  by  his 
name,  Joseph.  Blessed  are  those  whose  names  are 
known  to  God  and  are  written  in  the  Book  of  Life.  And 
the  angel  not  only  called  him  by  his  name,  but  added, 
"  Son  of  David,"  to  remind  him  of  the  promises  sworn 
by  God  to  that  king  and  now  fulfilled  in  his  virgin  spouse. 
He  then  proceeds  to  tranquillise  his  mind,  saying, 
"Fear  not  to  take  unto  thee  Mary  thy  wife,  for  that 
which  is  conceived  in  her  is  of  the  Holy  Ghost ' ' ;  that  is', 
fear  not  to  remain  with  Mary  thy  wife,  and  to  consider 
and  accept  her  as  such.  This  is  the  true  sense  of  the 
angel's  words,  and  not,  as  some  have  supposed,  that  he 
commanded  Joseph  to  take  Mary  to  wife,  as  if  he  were 
not  already  bound  in  marriage  to  her,  abiding  as  he  was 
in  the  same  house  with  her,  and  called  her  husband,  as- 
Mary  was  also  called  his  wife,  by  the  Evangelist  himself. 
"The  word  of  the  angel,"  says  Benedict  XIV.,  "by 
which  he  bade  him  not  to  fear  to  take  unto  him  Mary  for 
his  wife  is  a  Hebrew  mode  of  expression,  which  does  not 
signify  the  commencement  of  an  act,  but  the  continuation 
of  an  act  already  begun.  The  meaning  of  his  mandate  is 
this  :  '  Eetain  and  keep  the  wife  you  have  taken,  and  do 
not  forsake  her ' ;  and  such  is  the  interpretation  of  those 
who  are  adepts  in  the  Hebrew  idiom."  2  The  angel  bids 
him  remain  with  Mary,  and  not  fear  to  do  so,  albeit  he 
is  now  infallibly  informed  that  she  has  conceived  of  the 
Holy  Ghost ;  and  he  is  to  remain  with  her  precisely 
because  he  is  designed  by  God  to  be  the  tutor  and  guardian 

1  Chap.  xii.  6. 
2  De  Festis  B.  Virginia;  in  Festo  Aimuntiationis,  cap.  iii. 

206  ST.    JOSEPH. 

of  both  herself  and  her  Divine  Son.  Joseph,  with  all  a 
father's  rights,  without  having  had  any  part  in  His  con- 
ception, was  to  give  Him  the  name  of  Jesus  :  "  And  thou 
shalt  call  His  name  Jesus,"  that  is,  Saviour ;  for  Jesus, 
by  His  Passion  and  Death,  was  to  save  the  human  race 
from  eternal  perdition  :  "  He  shall  save  His  people  from 
their  sins ".  We  see  how  the  angel's  words  entirely 
coincide  with  the  view  here  presented  of  the  cause  of 
Joseph's  perturbation  and  the  motives  urging  him  to  his 
proposed  flight.  He  does  not  bid  him  discard  his  sus- 
picions, for  Joseph  had  none,  but  abide  without  fear  with 
the  Divine  Mother  as  his  wife,  and  assume  the  legitimate 
rights  and  position  of  a  father  ;  for  the  imposing  of  the 
name  was  the  father's  special  office.  The  angel  says  not, 
"  His  name  shall  be  called  Jesus,"  but  "  Thou  shalt  call 
His  name  Jesus  "  :  words  which  are  most  significant  as 
regards  the  office  and  dignity  of  Joseph. 

The  verses  which  follow  seem  to  be  plainly  a  commen- 
tary of  the. Evangelist  himself  :  "  Now  all  this  was  done 
that  it  might  be  fulfilled  which  the  Lord  spoke  by  the 
prophet,  saying  :  Behold  a  virgin  shall  be  with  child, 
and  bring  forth  a  son,  and  they  shall  call  His  name 
Emmanuel,  which,  being  interpreted,  is  God-with-us  ". 1 
But,  however  this  may  be,  certain  it  is  that  the  angel's 
message  entirely  satisfied  Joseph  and  set  his  mind  at  rest. 
The  infallible  assurance  now  given  to  him  of  the  sublime 
dignity  of  Mary  doubtless  increased  in  his  heart  a 
thousand-fold  his  faith  and  his  reverence,  but  the  com- 
mand coupled  with  it  had  extinguished  every  importunate 
idea  of  flight  and  separation.  On  awaking  from  sleep  the 
thought  that  he  was  dwelling  under  the  same  roof  with 
God  Himself  must  have  absorbed  every  faculty  of  his 
soul,  and  we  may  imagine  that  he  straightway  prostrated 
himselfjon  the  ground  in  deepest  adoration.  He  recalls 
the  oracles  of  the  prophets ;  and  the  glories,  the  humilia- 

1  St.  Matthew  i.  22,  23 ;  Isaias  vii.  14. 

HIS    VISION.  207 

tions,  and  the  sufferings  of  the  Eedeemer  unfold  them- 
selves before  him.  He  reflects  how  he  is  to  act  as  father 
to  the  Son  of  God,  and  the  weight  of  so  much  dignity 
well-nigh  overpowers  him.  He  reflects  how  he  is  spouse 
to  the  mother  of  the  long-promised  Messias,  and  he  knows 
not  how  he  can  duly  correspond  to  what  is  required  of 
him,  and  worthily  bear  himself  under  the  tremendous 
responsibilities  laid  upon  him. 

No  doubt  but  Mary  was  immediately  apprized  how 
Joseph  had  been  enlightened  by  the  angel  concerning  the 
high  mystery  which  had  been  wrought  within  her,  and 
how  the  overwhelming  respect  and  awe  which  had  seized 
upon  him  prevented  him  from  so  much  as  raising  his 
face  from  the  earth.  With  the  morning  light  she  would 
speedily  seek  her  holy  spouse,  in  order  gently  to  console 
him,  and,  kneeling  down,  would  invite  him  to  adore  with 
her  the  Majesty  of  God  present  with  them,  and  beg  the 
Lord  to  make  known  to  them  His  holy  will  in  all  things. 
Perhaps  she  again  repeated  the  inspired  canticle  of  the 
Magnificat,  with  which  she  had  replied  to  Elizabeth's 
salutation  ;  and,  when  she  arrived  at  that  verse  which 
says  how  God  has  cast  down  the  proud  and  exalted  the 
humble,  Joseph,  feeling  that  these  words  applied  to  him 
as  well  as  to  Mary,  will  have  been  moved  to  shed  tears  of 
profound  self-abasement  and  gratitude,  not  knowing  how 
sufficiently  to  return  thanks  to  God  who  had  regarded  his 
lowliness  also.  The  more,  indeed,  we  reflect  upon  these 
mysteries,  dwell  upon  them  and  penetrate  them  by  medi- 
tation, the  more  we  shall  be  struck  with  the  close  analogy 
between  Mary's  high  election  and  that  of  Joseph.  He,  too, 
had  his  trial  and  probation,  and  on  his  behaviour  under 
them,  on  his  correspondence  with  grace,  and  his  free  con- 
sent, seemed  to  depend  the  fulfilment  of  the  divine  decree 
appointing  him.  the  foster-father  of  Jesus  and  investing 
him  with  a  paternity  which  for  its  sublimity  and  specially 
high  characteristics  has  never  had  its  parallel  on  earth. 

208  ST.    JOSEPH. 

We  can  readily  imagine  that  there  would  be  a  renewed 
contest,  so  to  say,  the  only  possible  one,  between  these 
holy  spouses  as  to  which  was  to  render  submission  and 
obedience  to  the  other,  for  henceforward  Joseph  felt  that, 
as  the  Mother  of  God,  he  could  only  regard  and  treat  her 
as  his  sovereign  and  empress.  But  Mary,  we  know, 
cannot  have  allowed  of  any  reversal  of  their  natural 
relationship,  but  must  have  implored  him  to  continue  to 
regard  her,  not  only  as  his  spouse,  but  as  his  handmaid 
in  all  things,  telling  him  that  she  should  always  render 
to  him  the  homage  and  obedience  which  was  his  due,  as 
a  father  and  guide,  her  guardian  and  the  protector  of  her 
virginity,  as  God  had  appointed.  Thus  would  they 
together  join  in  serving  Jesus  and  co-operating  in  the 
great  work  He  had  come  upon  earth  to  accomplish.  St. 
Bridget  tells  us  in  her  Revelations  how  the  Blessed  Virgin 
assured  her  that,  when  Joseph  beheld  her  with  child  by 
the  operation  of  the  Holy  Ghost,  he  feared  exceedingly, 
suspecting  no  evil  of  her,  but,  remembering  the  words  of 
the  prophet  which  foretold  how  the  Sou  of  God  would  be 
born  of  a  virgin,  reputed  himself  unworthy  to  serve  such 
a  mother,  until  the  angel  in  sleep  bade  him  not  to  fear, 
but  to  minister  to  her  with  charity.  And  our  Lady  added : 
"  From  that  moment  Joseph  never  ceased  to  serve  me  as 
his  sovereign,  and  I  humbled  myself  to  the  lowest  offices 
to  show  him  my  submission  ". 

This  behaviour  of  Joseph  towards  the  august  Mother 
of  God  was,  we  must  be  sure,  quite  compatible  with  his 
filling  the  position  in  the  Holy  Family  of  its  head,  which 
he  was  bidden  and  bound  to  assume,  even  as  it  was 
compatible  with  what  is  far  more  amazing  still,  his 
acceptance  and,  subsequently,  his  exercise  of  the  supe- 
riority which,  as  His  reputed  father,  was  conferred  upoi 
him  over  the  Son  of  God  Himself,  who,  though  the  Loi 
of  all,  was  more  perfectly  subject  to  Joseph  than  tl 
most  dutiful  of  sons  ever  was  to  his  parent. 

(  209  ) 


JOSEPH'S  virtue  was  sublime  and  exceptional;  there- 
fore was  it  subjected  to  a  great  and  singular  trial. 
But,  as  he  heroically  surmounted  this  trial,  so  God  was 
pleased,  not  only  to  console  him,  but  to  exalt  him  to  a 
dignity  of  extraordinary  glory.  What  this  glory  was 
which  the  Ever-Blessed  Trinity  conceded  to  Joseph  we 
learn  from  the  Evangelist.  He  tells  us  that  when  Joseph 
had  risen  from  his  sleep  he  faithfully  fulfilled  the  man- 
date of  the  angel,  that  is,  the  command  of  God  by  the 
mouth  of  His  angel,  namely,  to  recognise  as  his  true 
spouse  her  who  had  conceived  by  the  power  of  the  Holy 
Ghost,  and  was  about  to  bring  forth  a  son  to  whom  he 
should  give  the  name  of  Jesus.  In  this  command  all  the 
Three  Divine  Persons  concurred.  The  Son,  who  was  to 
be  born  of  Mary,  had  no  earthly  father.  It  belonged  to 
His  Heavenly  Father  to  confer  upon  Him  His  name : 
that  is  the  father's  office  and  right ;  and  the  Eternal 
Father  transferred  this  right  to  Joseph,  willing  that  in 
His  place  he  should  impose  on  Him  the  name  of  Jesus, 
and,  in  doing  so,  He  constituted  him  His  representative 
in  all  a  father's  rights,  and  expressly  confided  to  his 
paternal  care  His  Only-Begotten  Son.  Jesus,  the  Son 
of  God,  who  was  to  be  born  of  the  Virgin  Mary,  willed 
that  she  should  be  joined  in  marriage  and  live  with  a 
virgin  spouse,  so  that  men  should  not  repute  His  birth  as 
illegitimate ;  and  He  willed  to  recognise  this  virgin 
spouse  as  His  father  in  affection,  adoption,  government 


210  ST.    JOSEPH. 

and  education,  and  to  be  constantly  obedient  and  subject 
to  him.  The  Holy  Ghost,  who  had  operated  the  incar- 
nation of  the  Son  of  God  in  the  womb  of  Mary,  willed 
that  to  Joseph  this  His  spouse  should  be  entirely  con- 
fided. He  was  to  be  the  zealous  guardian  of  her  vir- 
ginity, her  guide,  her  aid,  her  support,  and  her  inseparable 
companion  through  all  the  vicissitudes  of  life.  And 
where,  apart  from  the  Divine  Maternity,  can  so  great  a 
dignity  be  found  upon  earth  as  that  which  was  conferred 
on  Joseph  by  the  Three  Divine  Persons  of  the  Most  Holy 
Trinity  ? 

We  will  here  pause  awhile  to  reflect  on  this  high 
dignity,  for  the  paternity  of  Joseph  is  a  mystery  which 
deserves  our  deepest  consideration.  We  may  view  the 
announcement  of  the  angel  to  Joseph  as  the  counterpart, 
so  to  say,  of  the  Annunciation.  Mary  then  became  the 
mother  of  God.  Jesus  was  to  be  truly  born  of  her,  and 
to  be  Flesh  of  her  flesh.  In  the  vision  which  came  to 
Joseph  he  was  appointed  to  be — though  not  in  the  way 
of  generation— the  father  in  a  peculiar  and  ineffable 
manner  of  the  Eternal  Son.  It  is  important,  then,  in 
estimating  the  glory  of  Joseph,  to  consider  that  it  is  not 
sufficient  to  suppose  that  he  was  only  held  to  be  the 
father  of  Jesus  in  popular  credence,  for  there  was  a  sense 
in  which  he  was  truly  what  he  was  called.  This  august 
dignity  which  was  conferred  upon  him  was,  as  has  been 
observed,  altogether  singular  and  incomparable.  Although 
inferior  to  that  of  the  Blessed  Virgin,  inasmuch  as  she 
conceived  in  her  womb  and  brought  forth  the  Son  of  God, 
and  was  therefore  His  mother  according  to  the  flesh,  and 
more  entirely  His  parent  in  that  regard  than  any  earthly 
parent  ever  was  of  her  child,  nevertheless,  in  its  lower 
degree,  Joseph's  dignity  of  father  of  Jesus  stands  alone; 
and  his  title  pointed  to  a  reality,  and  did  not  merely 
serve  to  conceal  from  view  (as,  however,  it  also  did)  the 
fact  of  the  Incarnation.  The  Gospel  language  and  the 


testimony  of  Mary  are  significant  tokens  of  this  truth, 
which  has  been  dwelt  upon  and  commented  by  several 
Fathers  and  Doctors  of  the  Church. 

If  Joseph  had  been  the  father  of   Jesus  only  in   the 
estimation  of  others,  it  would  have  been  a  great  honour 
to  him,  and  this  honour  is  undeniably  his  ;  but  we  should 
take  a  restricted  view  of  the  dignity  bestowed  upon  him 
if  we  did  not  believe  that  this  title  had  moreover  a  true 
and  real  signification  belonging  to  it.     God  does  not  give 
a  mere   name.      His  word  is  creative,  and   imparts   a 
corresponding  reality.     Among  those  eminent  interpreters 
of  Scripture  who  have  treated  of  the  paternity  of  Joseph 
St.  Augustine  must  be  numbered  as  expressly  asserting 
his  claim  to  be  called  the  father  of  a  God-made-Man. 
The  devout  Abbot  Eupert  is  of  opinion  that   Joseph's 
supereminent  faith  constituted  a  sufficient  title  to  that 
appellation.     Observing  that  St.  Augustine   holds   that 
the  Blessed  Virgin  was  in  a  certain  manner  mother  of 
the  Saviour  even  before  the   Incarnation,   and  that   it 
would  have  availed  her  nothing  to  conceive  the  Son  of 
God  in  her  chaste  womb  if  she  had  not  first  conceived 
Him  by  the  brilliant  light  of  faith,  it  appears  to  him  that 
St.  Joseph's  paternity  may  be  established  on  the  excel- 
lence of  his  faith,  which  conferred  greater  honour  on  it 
than  the  ordinary  mode  of  generation  could  have  imparted. 
As   Abraham  by  faith1  became   father   of  his  race,  so 
faith  produced  in  Joseph  a  still  more  wonderful  paternity. 
The  learned  Bishop  of  Christopolis,  Jacob  Valentia,  in  his 
Treatise  on  the  Magnificat,  makes  some  very  striking  re- 
marks on  the  character  of  the  paternity  of  Joseph,  who,  he 
affirms,  was  in  a  singular  manner  the  spiritual  father  of 
the  Messias.     That  illustrious  prelate  gives  us  to  under- 
stand that  St.  Joseph  concurred  as  an  exemplary  cause, 
or  model,  in  the  production  of  the  Sacred  Humanity. 
He  says  that  the  Holy  Spirit  in  preparing  the  body  to 
1  Heb.  xi.  8-19. 

212  ST.    JOSEPH. 

which  the  Divine  Word  was  to  unite  Himself  observed 
the  temperament,  the  disposition,  the  inclinations  of 
Joseph.  He  attended  to  his  beauty,  to  his  form,  to  his 
physiognomy,  to  copy  it  when  organising  the  body  of  the 
Saviour  ;  and,  indeed,  this  resemblance  seemed  fitting  in 
order  to  corroborate  the  popular  opinion  that  the  son  of 
Mary  was  also  the  son  of  Joseph.  The  Eternal  Father 
begat  His  Son  by  the  sole  knowledge  of  Himself.  The 
Blessed  Trinity  contemplated  Itself  to  reproduce  Its 
living  image  in  the  creation  of  our  souls.  The  body  of 
the  first  Adam,  Tertullian  says,1  was  moulded  by  God  as 
a  model  of  the  Humanity  of  the  Second  Adam,  whom  in 
the  course  of  ages  He  designed  to  bring  into  the  world. 
But  when  the  Holy  Spirit  formed  the  Body  and  created 
the  Soul  of  Jesus  He  contented  Himself  with  looking  at 
Joseph,  that  the  one  and  the  other  might  be  perfectly 
alike.  If,  then,  our  saint  co-operated  as  an  ideal  cause 
in  the  production  of  the  Humanity  of  the  Divine  Word, 
may  we  not  believe,  with  the  learned  Bishop,  that  Joseph 
was  His  father  after  a  spiritual  and  most  singular  manner? 
That  we  have  a  right  to  believe  as  much  is  unquestion- 
able, since  it  is  the  general  doctrine  of  the  Fathers  and 
Theologians  of  the  Church  that  Joseph  is  the  father  of 
the  Saviour  on  most  assured  titles ;  and  that,  with  the 
exception  of  generation,  there  is  nothing  which  can  be 
attributed  to  any  man  worthy  of  the  name  of  father 
which  was  not  pre-eminently  possessed  by  him.2  We 
need  not,  then,  fear  believing  too  much  or  holding  ex- 
aggerated notions  concerning  a  mystery  which  probably 
far  surpasses  our  unaided  intellects  fully  to  conceive. 

But  we  have  by  no  means  exhausted  the  subject.  We 
will  look  at  it  from  another  point  of  view,  which  confers 
no  less  honour  on  our  saint.  Jesus  Himself  elected 

1  De  Resitrrectione  Carnis,  cap.  vi. 

2  See,  in  particular,  Suarez,  Tract,  de  Incarnat.,  t.  ii.  disp.  viii. 
sect.  1  :  also  Salmeron,  Tract,  iii. 


Joseph  to  be  His  father,  and  always  treated  him  as  such. 
This,  too,  is  the  teaching  of  the  holy  Fathers.  We  find, 
for  instance,  St.  John  Damascene  declaring  that  Jesus 
raised  Joseph  to  the  glorious  dignity  of  His  father  by  a 
special  election  and  privileged  adoption;1  and  St.  Epi- 
phanius  also  saying  that  no  one  can  deny  that  Joseph  is 
the  father  of  the  Son  of  God,  adding  that  the  origin  of 
this  paternity  was  the  love  of  this  same  Son,  who  adopted 
him  for  His  father.  St.  Bernard  in  later  days  echoes  the 
same  sentiment.2  Of  all  the  sons  of  men,  the  Saviour 
alone  had  the  power  to  choose  His  own  father.  With 
other  men  this  was  impossible ;  they  were  incapable  of 
choice  before  they  existed,  and  could  therefore  give  no 
preference  to  one  man  more  than  to  another.  Even. 
Jesus  Christ  Himself,  as  Son  of  God,  did  not  elect  His 
Eternal  Father,  not  only  because  His  generation  was 
necessary,  but  also  because  He  in  no  way  preceded  His 
own  eternal  generation,  and  therefore  exercised  no 
deliberation  or  choice  concerning  Him  who  begat  Him 
from  all  eternity.  But  this  same  Divine  Saviour  could, 
without  doubt,  designate  the  father  whom  as  Son  of  Man 
he  was  to  acknowledge,  because,  as  the  Word  of  God,  He 
preceded  him,  and  there  was  nothing  to  constrain  Him  to 
prefer  one  man  to  be  His  father  more  than  another.  On 
the  cross  He  adopted  St.  John  the  Evangelist  for  His 
brother ;  but  long  before  He  had  honoured  St.  Joseph  by 
adopting  him  for  His  father.  The  adoption  of  John  was 
made  at  the  death  of  the  Saviour,  the  adoption  of  Joseph 
had  already  been  made  in  the  first  instant  of  His  life.  If 
it  was,  as  we  have  said,  a  high  honour  to  Joseph  to  be 
chosen  as  the  spouse  of  Mary  and  accepted  by  her,  what 
must  we  say  of  the  dignity  conferred  on  him  in  being 
chosen  by  the  Son  of  God  Himself  to  be  His  father? 
And,  as  he  was  truly  the  spouse  of  Mary,  not  merely  such 
in  name,  so  was  he  also  by  adoption  the  true  father  of 
1  Oral.  iii.  de  Kativ.  B.  Virg.  -  Super  Missus  est,  Horn.  ii.  16. 

214  ST.    JOSEPH. 

Jesus.  Jesus  in  adopting  him  made  him  His  father 
supernaturally,  and  this  belief  is  surely  more  honourable 
to  the  Saviour  than  to  suppose  that  every  time  He  gave 
him  that  endearing  name  it  was  one  empty  of  any  true 
signification.  No  ;  the  paternity  of  Joseph  was  a  real 
paternity,  and,  albeit  in  a  mysterious  and  spiritual  sense, 
had  a  reality  far  surpassing  that  of  any  ordinary  father. 

And  how  often,  and  with  what  affection,  in  the  course 
of  the  well-nigh  thirty  years  during  which  Jesus  con- 
versed with  Joseph,  did  He  not  pronounce  that  sweet 
name  !  It  seems  most  probable  that  the  first  time  the 
Incarnate  Word  spoke  it  was  to  say  "father  and 
mother,"  according  to  the  prophecy  of  Isaias,1  and  to 
imitate  little  ones  in  all  His  ways.  Be  this  as  it  may, 
how  often  must  the  Divine  Infant  have  called  Joseph 
father !  How  often,  embracing  him  and,  after  the  manner 
of  children,  clasping  and  clinging  to  his  neck,  must  He 
not  have  said,  "  O  father,  My  dear  father  !  "  The  angels 
know  how  often,  for  the  words  of  the  Saviour  would  be 
duly  counted  by  those  blessed  spirits.  Again,  the  very 
fact  of  Jesus  having  so  often  during  His  public  ministry 
called  Himself  the  "  Son  of  man,"  is  not  perhaps  with- 
out a  peculiar  meaning  as  regards  Joseph's  paternity. 
The  learned  Cardinal  Toleto 2  has  drawn  attention  to 
this,  and  says  that,  making  use  of  a  general  term  signi- 
ficant of  both  sexes,  He  would  show  that,  although  His 
mother  alone  had  conceived  Him,  nevertheless  He  wished 
all  the  world  to  know  that  He  recognised  Himself  as  the 
son  of  Joseph ;  and,  as  often  as  He  honoured  him  with 
the  name  of  father,  He  conferred  upon  him  the  right  to 
be  truly  so  called.  The  words  of  God,  as  we  have  said, 
are  effective  and  creative  :  "  He  spake,  and  they  were 
made  ;  He  commanded,  and  they  were  created  ".8  That 
which  Omnipotence  pronounces  is  simultaneously  accom- 

Chap.  viii.  4.  2  In  S.  Joannem,  Annot.  xvii. 

3  Psalm  xxxii.  9. 


plished.  When,  therefore,  God  names  Joseph  His  father 
He  makes  him  so.  A  word  of  the  Most  High  had 
sufficed  to  draw  a  whole  universe  from  the  abyss  of 
nothingness,  and  this  word  had  so  much  power,  St. 
Ambrose  says,  that  its  execution  did  not  follow,  but 
accompanied  it.  In  like  manner,  the  Son  of  God  needed 
but  a  word  for  the  subsistence  of  a  new  quality  in 
Joseph,  that  of  father,  in  the  possession  of  which  he  was 
manifestly  placed  by  the  mere  fact  that  Jesus  called  him 
father.  As  St.  Augustine  and  St.  Gregory  the  Great 
teach,  God,  both  in  the  Old  and  the  New  Testament, 
speaks  by  acts  as  well  as  by  words.  That  Jesus  treated 
Joseph  as  His  father  for  so  many  years — no  son  having 
ever  shown  so  much  respect  and  obedience  to  his  parent 
— is  in  itself  a  striking  proof  of  the  true  paternity  of 
Joseph.  The  acts  of  the  Son  of  God  are  not  less  signi- 
ficant than  were  those  of  patriarchs  and  prophets  ;  hence 
we  have  every  reason  to  affirm,  with  Cardinal  Cajetan, 
that  Jesus  Himself  teaches  us  that  He  is  verily  the  spn 
of  Joseph.  But  on  this  subject,  His  marvellous  subjec- 
tion to  Joseph,  we  shall  have  more  to  say  hereafter. 

St.  Augustine,  speaking  of  our  saint,  says  that  he  owed 
the  august  title  of  father  of  Jesus,  and  consequently  the 
Saviour's  choice  of  him,  to  that  which  in  other  men  is 
incompatible  with  paternity,  namely,  his  extraordinary 
love  of  virginity  and  his  study  to  perfect  it  in  himself. 
And,  in  effect,  if  Mary's  virginal  purity  inclined  and  drew 
the  Son  of  God,  as  St.  Bernard  says,  to  abide  in  her 
chaste  womb,  it  is  highly  probable  that  this  same  virtue, 
which  flourished  so  sweetly  in  the  breast  of  Joseph, 
moved  the  Saviour  to  choose  him  for  His  father.  But 
He  alone  knows  the  motives  of  His  choice ;  one  thing 
we  know,  as  St.  Jerome  says,  that  there  was  in  him  such 
a  fund  of  merit  that  nothing  more  was  needed  to  cause 
him  to  be  preferred  to  all  other  men. 

We  must  now  take  a  glance  at  his  title  to  paternity 

216.  ST.    JOSEPH. 

founded  on  his  espousals  with  Mary.  Jesus  was  the 
virginal  fruit  of  a  virginal  marriage,  for  Joseph  was  the 
husband  of  Mary  of  whom  was  born  Jesus.  It  was  not 
as  when  a  woman  takes  a  second  husband,  and  her 
children  by  the  former  marriage  call  him  father  because 
he  is  legally  such.  Every  one  understands  this  practice, 
in  which  a  claim  to  real  paternity  is  neither  made  nor 
implied.  But  Joseph  was  the  husband  of  Mary,  not 
only  of  whom  Jesus  was  born,  but  when  He  was  born, 
and  also  at  the  time  of  His  conception.  Jesus  was  not 
only  born  of  a  virgin  but,  as  Scripture  expressly  states, 
of  "a  virgin  espoused  to  a  man  whose  name  was 
Joseph".1  If  it  had  so  pleased  God,  the  Annunciation 
and  the  Divine  Conception  might  have  taken  place  a  day 
or  two  before  the  Espousals,  for  the  marriage  of  Joseph 
and  Mary  would  have  equally  served  in  that  case  to 
shield  her  honour,  but  no ;  the  virgin  mother  was  to  have 
a  husband,  and  that  husband  was  Joseph. 

We  are  so  accustomed  to  the  brief  words  of  the  Scrip- 
ture narrative  that  we  are  apt  not  to  take  sufficient  pains 
to  fathom  their  deep  import ;  yet  their  very  briefness 
bespeaks  their  depth.  None  are  superfluous  or  casual. 
All  have  their  meaning,  and,  not  seldom,  several  mean- 
ings. Now,  we  may  notice  that  the  Evangelists,  while 
taking  marked  care  to  state  that  the  Incarnate  Word 
was  divinely  conceived,  so  that  man  had  no  part  in  His 
generation,  which  was  the  sole  work  of  the  Holy  Ghost, 
speak  also  of  Joseph  in  terms  and  give  him  a  position 
hardly  to  be  accounted  for  or  fully  understood  unless  we 
hold  his  paternity  in  a  true  and  special  sense  of  its  own. 
Joseph  was  father  of  the  Saviour  because  of  his  holy 
marriage  with  the  glorious  Virgin,  for,  according  to  the 
opinion  of  the  Abbot  Eupert,  it  was  impossible  for  hii 
to  be  the  husband  of  Mary  without  being  the  father 
Jesus.  "  If,"  he  says,  "he  is  the  husband  of  Mary, 
1  St.  Luke  i.  27. 


then  he  is  the  father  of  the  Lord."  l  Many  centuries 
ago,  St.  Augustine,  that  strenuous  defender  of  the  pater- 
nity of  Joseph,  availed  himself  of  the  same  reason  to 
justify  the  language  of  Scripture  in  calling  him  the  father 
of  the  Son  of  God:  "Whence  is  he  called  father  but 
dcause  he  is  the  husband  of  Mary  ?  "2 

This  great  doctor  of  the  Church  further  strengthens  his 
opinion  by  an  argument  which,  if  it  was  not  put  forth  by 
one  of  his  high  authority,  would  be  deemed  perhaps  by 
some  to  make  too  arrogant  a  claim  on  behalf  of  our  saint. 
Yet  it  would  not  be  easy  to  confute  it.  He  says  that 
Jesus  might  be  called  the  son  of  David,  even  if  the 
Blessed  Virgin  had  not  been  descended,  as,  in  fact,  she 
was,  from  that  great  king ;  for  it  was  sufficient  that  the 
Saviour  was  truly  the  son  of  Joseph  for  him  to  be  incon- 
testably  recognised  as  the  son  of  David,  For  if  David  can 
justly  claim  the  august  title  of  father  of  the  Messias, 
because  Joseph  connects  him  with  Him — and  that  so  it 
is  the  genealogy  of  Joseph  given  by  St.  Matthew  testifies 
— it  is  easy  to  infer  that  this  same  saint  may  be  also  justly 
held  by  all  men,  and  declared  without  fear  of  error,  to  be 
the  father  of  Jesus.  Such  is  the  doctrine  of  St.  Augustine, 
which,  before  him,  was  taught  by  Origen,3  who,  though 
not  so  high  an  authority  as  the  great  Bishop  of  Hippo, 
records  at  least  the  opinion  of  very  early  times. 

Perhaps  sufficient  attention  has  not  been  paid  to  the 
witness  which  the  New  Testament  genealogies  give  in 
favour  of  St.  Joseph's  substantial  claims.  They  are 
often  regarded  in  the  light,  if  not  of  a  difficulty,  yet  of 
something  needing  explanation.  Why,  it  is  asked,  is  it 
Joseph's  genealogy  which  is  given  ?  The  object  being  to 
prove  the  Saviour's  descent,  according  to  the  flesh,  from 
David,  it  was  surely  Mary's,  not  Joseph's,  genealogy 
which  was  needed.  Moreover,  Joseph's  descent  is  intro- 

1  Comment,  in  Matthceum,  cap.  i.          2  De  Consens.  Evang.  c.  i. 
3  Horn.  xvii.  in  Liicam. 

218  ST.    JOSEPH. 

duced  in  these  clear  and  formal  terms  :  "  The  book  of 
the  generation  of  Jesus  Christ,  the  Son  of  David  "  ;  and 
ends  by  saying  :  "  Jacob  begat  Joseph,  the  husband  of 
Mary,  of  whom  was  born  Jesus  "-1  Now,  it  is  true  that 
a  satisfactory  explanation  has  been  given,  as  has  already 
been  noticed,  namely,  that  the  Hebrews  were  not  in  the 
habit  of  tracing  genealogies  on  the  female  side,  and  that 
Mary,  being  near  of  kin  to  Joseph  and  of  the  house  of 
David,  was  included  in  the  same  descent.  Besides  which, 
the  genealogy  given  by  St.  Luke  is  by  some  interpreters, 
though  not  by  all,  considered  (as  was  pointed  out)  to  be 
Mary's,  Heli  being  identified  with  Joachim,  her  father ;  but 
any  way,  the  significant  fact  remains  that  the  name  of 
Joseph  here  also,  where  the  descent  is  traced  upwards, 
heads — as  in  St.  Matthew's  Gospel,  where  it  is  traced 
downwards,  it  closes — the  genealogy  of  our  Lord ;  both 
being  therefore,  on  the  face  of  them,  designed  to  establish 
His  title  to  being  the  son  of  David  through  Joseph, 
whose  natural  descent  from  that  king  is  given  by  St. 
Matthew,  as  his  legal  is  given  by  St.  Luke.  St.  Matthew, 
after  recording  this  genealogy,  immediately  proceeds  to 
state  how  the  generation  of  Jesus  was  the  work  of  the 
Holy  Ghost ;  and  St.  Luke,  by  his  expression,  "  Being 
(as  it  was  supposed)  the  Son  of  Joseph,  who  was  of 
Heli,"  incidentally  declares  the  same ;  namely,  that 
Joseph  had  no  part  in  the  generation  of  the  Son  of  God. 
Hence  we  find  the  two  Evangelists,  while  clearly  assert- 
ing that  Jesus  was  not  the  son  of  Joseph  by  natural 
generation,  at  the  same  time  giving  testimony  to  his  being 
his  son  in  another  sense,  by  connecting  His  right  to  the 
title  of  son  of  David  with  the  husband  of  His  Blessed 
Virgin  Mother. 

The  Virgin  belonged  to  Joseph  by  marriage,  and,  if  we 
are  to  credit  the  pious  and  learned  Chancellor  of  the 
University  of  Paris,  Gerson — who  preached,  not  merely 

1  St.  Matthew  i.  1,  16. 


without  rebuke,  but  with  commendation,  of  the  lofty 
privileges  of  our  saint  before  the  Council  of  Constance — 
the  Holy  Spirit  would  not  take  the  small  portion  of  the 
blood  of  the  most  pure  Virgin  needed  to  form  within  her 
the  Body  of  the  Divine  Word,  without  Joseph's  implied 
consent ;  so  that  the  Word  in  assuming  a  portion  of  the 
substance  of  our  Lady  appropriated  what,  in  a  manner, 
depended  on  Joseph,  inasmuch  as  He  united  Himself  to 
the  flesh  of  her  over  whom  this  great  saint  had  rights ; 
and  thus,  in  becoming  the  son  of  Mary,  He  became  also, 
in  a  certain  sense,  the  son  of  Joseph,  for  He  was  not  the 
son  simply  of  a  virgin,  but  of  a  virgin  married  to  Joseph. 
"Joseph  was  His  father  by  generation,  not  his  own,  but 
of  Mary,  his  wife."  These  are  Gerson's  words ;  and  it 
is  in  the  same  sense  that  the  strong  expressions  of  some 
doctors  in  past  times  must  be  interpreted ;  such  as  the  fol- 
lowing of  Antonio  Perez,  Bishop  of  Urgel,  in  his  commen- 
tary on  St.  Matthew :  "Joseph  obtained  the  right  of  a  father 
to  Christ,  in  that  He  was  bone  of  his  bone,  and  flesh  of 
his  flesh,  to  wit,  of  Mary  his  spouse  "  ;  and  those  of  the 
learned  Paschal  Eathbert,  Abbot  of  Corbie,  who  lived  in 
the  middle  of  the  eighth  century,  when  he  said  that  the 
Saviour  belonged  to  Joseph  even  according  to  the  flesh.1 
We  might  also  quote  as  an  authority  the  Venerable  Bede, 
who,  apparently  following  St.  Augustine,  judges  that 
Joseph,  in  virtue  of  his  marriage,  has  the  same  title  to 
be  called  the  father  of  Jesus  as  he  has  to  be  called  the 
husband  of  Mary.2  And,  as  it  is  the  incontestable  doctrine 
of  the  Church  that  Joseph  was  the  true  husband  of  Mary, 
it  must  be  inferred  that  he  thereby  justly  merited  also  the 
title  of  father  of  Jesus.  And  would  it  not  seem  that  God, 
by  not  allowing  the  conception  of  His  Son  to  precede 
Mary's  marriage,  designed  to  give  Joseph  an  authentic  title 
to  that  name,  that  all  men  might  be  able  to  say,  as  does  the 
learned  Tostatus,  that  "  Christ  was  the  offspring  of  the 

1  Expos,  in  Matthceum.  2  In  Lucam,  cap.  ii. 

220  ST.    JOSEPH. 

marriage  of  Mary  and  Joseph";1  and,  as  the  learned 
Bishop  of  Christopolis  affirms,  that  He  was  "  born  of  this 
sacred,  virginal,  and  inviolate  marriage"?2  It  was  God's 
will,  in  short,  that  it  might  rightly  be  maintained  that 
the  Saviour  was,  not  only  the  "  Blessed  Fruit  "  of  Mary's 
chaste  womb,  but,  as  St.  Thomas  observes,  and,  before 
him,  St.  Augustine,  the  fruit  of  the  alliance  of  Joseph  and 
Mary,  and  at  the  same  time  the  son  of  both  the  one  and 
the  other. 

We  have  still  to  make  some  allusion  to  Mary's  own 
transfer  of  a  share  in  her  rights  to  Joseph ;  for,  accord- 
ing to  many  theologians,  Mary  may  be  said  to  have  had 
the  rights,  not  only  of  a  mother,  but,  in  the  absence  of 
any  human  parent  on  the  other  side,  of  a  father  also. 
Yet  that  she  fully  conceded  his  share  in  these  rights  to 
Joseph,  so  far  as  they  belonged  to  her,  there  can  be  no 
doubt.  We  have  only  to  refer  to  the  words  she  addressed 
to  her  Divine  Son  after  finding  Him  in  the  Temple  : 
"  Thy  father  and  I  have  sought  Thee  sorrowing,"  3  giving 
Joseph  the  first  place.  She  does  not  say,  "  My  spouse 
and  I,"  or  "Thy  servant,  Joseph,  and  I,"  but  "Thy 
father  and  I".  And  the  Evangelist  himself  adopts  our 
Lady's  language,  and  speaks  of  them  both  as  the  parents 
of  Jesus,4  as  if  their  claims  in  that  respect  were  on  an 
equality.  But  upon  this  remarkable  incident  we  shall 
not  here  further  dwell,  as  we  shall  have  occasion  to  recur 
to  it  in  the  course  of  the  narrative. 

In  conclusion,  it  must  be  added  that  (as  Gerson 
observes)  the  Holy  Ghost  substituted  Joseph  in  His 
place  to  be  Mary's  visible  spouse.  It  is  an  undoubted 
doctrine  of  the  Fathers  of  the  Church  that  the  Virgin 
was  the  spouse  of  the  Holy  Ghost,  and,  as  that  Adorable 
Spirit  heretofore,  brooding  over  the  waters,  imparted 
fecundity  to  them,  so  also  by  an  operation  wholly  divine 

1  In  Matthceum,  cap.  i.  q.  xxxii.        "  Tract,  super  Magnificat. 
3  St.  Luke  ii.  48.  4  Ibid.  v.  41. 


He  caused  Mary  to  conceive.  Being,  however,  Himself 
invisible,  He  gave  her  in  His  stead  a  visible  spouse,  who 
should  accompany  her  everywhere  and  render  her  faithful 
service.  It  was  as  when  the  Saviour  on  ascending  into 
Heaven  withdrew  His  visible  presence  from  the  Church, 
His  spouse;  He  appointed  Peter  as  His  Vicar  in  the 
care  and  government  of  that  Church,  investing  him  with 
all  His  powers  and  making  him  His  personal  representa- 
tive ;  and,  even  as  Peter,  in  his  quality  of  Vicar  of 
Christ,  could  call  the  Church  his  spouse  and  her  children 
his  children,  who,  on  their  part,  also  gave  him,  and  still 
give,  his  successors  the  name  of  father — Papa — so  also 
the  Holy  Ghost  invested  Joseph  with  His  authority  and 
rights,  and  taught  the  Evangelists,  as  we  have  seen,  to 
call  him  father  of  Jesus,  and  record  his  genealogy,  not 
that  of  his  spouse,  Mary. 

There  is  a  further  reflection  which  must  naturally 
suggest  itself  to  every  one  who  ardently  desires  to  see  St. 
Joseph  honoured  and  exalted.  While  Jesus  remained 
on  earth  He  was  believed  and  reputed  to  be  the  son  of 
Joseph.  Now,  though  the  Divinity  of  our  Lord  was 
fully  known  only  to  a  chosen  few,  all  men  regarded  Him 
as  a  great  prophet  mighty  in  word  and  work,  and  there 
was  even  a  widely  spread  expectation  that  He  would 
prove  to  be  the  promised  Messias,  the  inheritor  of  David's 
throne,  the  people  more  than  once  desiring  to  take  Him 
by  force  and  make  Him  their  king.  Can  we  think  that 
the  Saviour  would  allow  Joseph  to  lose  any  portion  of 
the  honour  .which  at  one  time  thus  accrued  to  him  from 
his  paternity  ?  His  very  name  signifies  increase ;  how, 
then,  could  he  suffer  diminution  ?  But  more  that  this : 
while  on  earth,  dwelling  in  the  humble  house  of 
|  Nazareth,  Jesus  called  Joseph  father,  and  treated  him 
lovingly  as  such  ;  and  now  that  He  is  sitting  in  glory  at 
the  right  hand  of  His  Eternal  Father,  together  with 
His  mother,  the  crowned  Queen  of  heaven  and  earth,  and 

222  ST.    JOSEPH. 

Joseph,  too,  clothed  in  his  glorified  body,  as  it  is  piously 
believed — for  how  could  it  be  otherwise? — can  we  imagine 
that  our  dear  Lord,  who  on  His  exaltation  turns  to  Mary 
and  calls  her  mother,  has  ceased  to  address  Joseph  with 
the  endearing  name  of  father?  If  so  it  could  be,  then 
would  it  follow  that  to  our  great  Patriarch  and  Patron 
earth  proffered  a  glory  and  a  blessing  which  Heaven 
denies  him.  But  this  is  not  so.  God's  gifts  are  real, 
not  nominal  gifts  ;  and  they  are,  moreover,  as  we  are 
told,  "  without  repentance  "-1  He  does  not  give  and 
then  take  away.  He '  increases,  He  develops,  He  causes 
to  fructify,  but  He  never  resumes,  as  though  it  were  a 
mere  loan,  what  He  has  once  conferred  ;  nay,  even  that 
which  is  entrusted  to  us  as  such,  the  talents  which  we 
receive  to  trade  withal  until  His  coming,  He  makes  ours 
on  the  day  of  reckoning,  with  increase  and  recompense 
incalculable.  And  shall  not  Joseph,  who  served  Him  so 
tenderly  and  faithfully  as  His  father  on  earth  during 
thirty  years,  enjoy  for  ever,  in  eternal  bliss,  the  dignity 
which  during  his  mortal  life,  spent  in  poverty  and  obscu- 
rity, had  exalted  him  far  above  any  man  who  ever  had 
lived  or  ever  should  live — his  Paternity  ? 

1  Bom.  xi.  29. 

(  223  ) 



f  AKY,  as  we  have  said,  besought  Joseph  to  allow  her 
'JL  to  continue  to  serve  him  as  before,  and  not  to  pay 
her  the  profound  homage  which,  since  he  had  become 
acquainted  with  the  mystery  of  the  Incarnation,  he 
desired  to  do.  The  feelings  of  Joseph,  we  may  imagine, 
bore  some  resemblance  to  those  of  a  devout  Catholic  in 
presence  of  the  Blessed  Sacrament.  He  would  willingly 
have  been  always  on  his  knees,  except  when  engaged 
in  performing  the  domestic  work,  from  which  he  most 
ardently  desired  to  relieve  his  spouse,  ever  since  it  had 
been  made  known  to  him  that  she  had  become  the  taber- 
nacle of  God.  Maria  d'Agreda  records  touching  revela- 
tions of  the  holy  contention  between  the  two  spouses  on 
this  subject.  The  Blessed  Virgin,  she  tells  us,  was 
deeply  grieved  at  being  hindered  in  the  practice  of 
humility,  and  that  the  relations  which  God  had  ap- 
pointed between  them  as  husband  and  wife  should  be 
changed  and  disturbed ;  for,  though  apparently  yielding 
to  her  entreaties,  Joseph  nevertheless  was  constantly 
endeavouring  to  anticipate  her,  or  taking  advantage  of 
times  when  she  was  retired  in  prayer  to  do  her  work  for 
I  her.  She  now  tenderly  besought  the  Lord  to  oblige  her 
spouse  to  desist  from  his  purpose,  both  in  this  respect 
and  in  the  external  homage  which  he  strove  to  pay  her. 
Her  prayers  were  heard,  and  the  guardian -angel  of 
Joseph  spoke  interiorly  to  him,  bidding  him  not  to 

224  ST.    JOSEPH. 

thwart  her  who  was  superior  to  all  creatures  in  Heaven 
and  earth  in  her  desires  for  self-abasement,  but  to  allow 
her  to  minister  to  him  in  outward  things,  while  in  the 
depths  of  his  heart  he  venerated  her  and  adored  the 
Incarnate  Word,  whose  will  it  was  that  He  and  His 
Blessed  Mother  should  serve  and  not  be  served ;  thus 
instructing  the  world  in  the  excellence  of  the  virtue  of 
humility.  He  permitted  him,  however,  to  help  her  in 
anything  which  involved  fatigue,  and  bade  him  ever 
honour  within  her  the  Lord  of  all. 

Joseph  acquiesced  in  God's  will,  but  it  was  with  much 
confusion  that  he  allowed  himself  to  be  waited  upon  and 
served  by  her  whom  he  knew  to  be  the  Sovereign  Queen 
of  angels  and  of  men.     By  this  obedience  he  made  abun- 
dant compensation  for  those  other  lowly  acts  which  he 
left  to  his  holy  spouse,  seeing  that  this  abstention  was 
to  him  a  far  greater  act  of  humiliation  and  self -renounce- 
ment than  their  performance  would  have   been.      He, 
however,  more  frequently  now   than  formerly,  left  hi* 
workshop  to  see  if  Mary  needed  any  assistance,  and  ah 
to  hold  sweet  conferences  with  her  on  divine  things,  ii 
which  he  received  great  illumination  from  her  in  whoi 
were  inexhaustible  treasures  of  wisdom  and  of  know- 
ledge, while  she  in  her  humility  and  modesty  sedulous!; 
avoided  the  appearance  of  being  his  instructress. 

Joseph  was  also  favoured  with  many  interior 
and  even  with  visions  of  the  unborn  Babe.      He  am 
Mary  were  alone  in  their  humble  abode.      The  Ev* 
gelists  have  not  described  to  us  their  life  and  converse 
tion,  and  they  themselves  never  spoke  of  it  to  any  on< 
That  God,  however,  should  have  favoured  some  of  His 
saints  and  privileged  souls,  while  engaged  in  contem- 
plation, with  marvellous  glimpses  of  scenes  so  touchii 
and  edifying  can  be  no   matter  of   surprise;    and   tl 
seems  to  be  an  occasion  when  it  is  legitimate  to  borrow 
from  their  revelations  a  few  details  to  aid  us  in  01 

INTEKIOR    OF    THE    HOLY   HOUSE.  225 

meditations  on  the  hidden  life  at  Nazareth.  From  them 
we  learn  that  the  angels  in  attendance  on  the  Divine 
Mother  held  frequent  converse  with  her,  and  often  joined 
her  in  singing  canticles  of  praise  to  their  Incarnate  God. 
But  not  only  these  glorious  spirits,  but  even  the  animal 
creation  would  bear  their  part  in  honouring  her  and  their 
Creator.  Sometimes,  we  are  told,  at  the  summons  of  the 
Lord,  birds  of  exquisite  beauty  would  come  and  visit  her ; 
they  would  salute  and  do  her  reverence  as  their  mistress, 
bring  her  flowers  in  their  beaks,  and  unite  their  voices 
with  hers  in  a  concert  of  sweetest  harmony ;  nor  would 
they  depart  until  she  had  blessed  them.  In  inclement 
weather  they  would  take  refuge  with  this  compassionate 
mother,  and  she  would  welcome  and  feed  them  with  the 
tenderest  kindness,  loving  them  for  their  innocence  and 
glorifying  God  in  His  admirable  works.  For  none  of  His 
works  did  she  esteem  to  be  trivial  and  of  no  account,  but 
held  all  to  be  worthy  of  respect,  as  manifesting,  more  or 
less,  one  or  other  of  His  attributes  or  perfections.  He 
had  created  them,  and  that  sufficed .  They  are  steps, 
too,  whereby  the  mind  ascends  to  the  contemplation  of 
spiritual  truths ;  they  are-  mirrors  in  which  we  behold 
the  invisible  God  reflected.  A  special  gift  of  the  Holy 
Ghost,  that  of  science,  is  given  to  us  for  this  end,  and 
Mary  possessed  all  these  gifts  in  the  most  eminent 
degree.  Joseph  also  was  favoured  with  witnessing  a 
visit  of  these  feathered  songsters,  and,  full  of  astonish- 
ment and  delight,  he  believed,  in  his  humility,  that  these 
simple  creatures  acquitted  themselves  of  their  obligations 
towards  their  Queen  and  the  Divine  Infant  better  than 
he  did  himself,  or  was  permitted  to  do.1 

1  Instances  of  the  confidence  and  affection  shown  by  animals  to 
man  are  frequent  in  the  lives  of  saints.  How  much  more,  then, 
.  should  we  expect  them  in  the  case  of  one  who  bore  in  her  womb 
their  Creator  and  her  own !  It  is  sufficient  to  allude  to  St.  John 
the  Evangelist  and  the  partridge,  St.  Francis  of  Assisi  and  the  wolf, 
St.  Benedict  and  the  raven,  St.  Gregory  and  the  dove.  The  Lives 


226  ST.    JOSEPH. 

As  we  have  said,  Mary  and  Joseph  were  alone.  They 
had  no  servant,  and  not  seldom  found  themselves  in  a 
state  of  destitution  on  account  of  their  great  liberality  to 
the  poor,  giving  them  always  what  they  had  to  give ;  for, 
unlike  the  children  of  this  world,  they  were  not  solicitous 
to  lay  by  for  the  morrow,  saying  what  shall  we  eat  and 
what  shall  we  drink,  and  wherewithal  shall  we  be 
clothed  ?  and  this  not  from  improvidence,  which  cannot 
expect  any  reward  from  God,  but  from  charity,  love  of 
poverty,  and  faith  in  Him  who  feeds  all  things  living,  and 
never  fails  those  who  rely  upon  Him.  The  greatness  of 
soul,  the  faith  and  liberality,  of  Joseph,  were  similar  to 
those  of  his  spouse.  Never  could  a  feeling  resembling 
cupidity  find  entrance  into  his .  heart.  He  laboured 
diligently,  it  is  true,  as  also  did  Mary,  but  never  did  they 
put  any  price  on  the  work  of  their  hands,  but  left  it  ,to 
those  for  whom  it  had  been  performed  to  make  what 
remuneration  they  pleased,  receiving  it  from  them,  not  so 
milch  as  payment,  but  as  voluntary  alms.  Such  was  the 
sanctity  and  perfection  which  Joseph  had  learned  in  the 
school  of  Heaven,  and  which  he  practised  in  his  house ; 
and  thus  it  would  sometimes  come  to  pass  that  he  was 
not  paid  for  his  work,  and  then  want  visited  the  lowly 

of  the  Fathers  of  the  Desert  abound  in  facts  of  a  similar  order — 
showing  that  innocence  and  sanctity  have  the  gift  of  recovering  for 
man  the  power  over  the  brute  creation  which  he  possessed  in  the 
primeval  Paradise.  But,  indeed,  such  incidents,  extraordinary  as 
they  are,  differ  only  in  their  singularity  or  in  their  marvellous 
character  from  those  which  are  of  familiar  experience  to  persons 
who  have  cultivated  the  friendship — we  use  the  term  advisedly — 
animals  and  enjoy  their  confidence.  Their  willing  submission  ai 
self-restraint,  their  intelligence,  their  sympathies,  and  their  gra 
tude,  are  similar  in  kind  to  the  instances  which  are  narrated  in 
annals  of  hagiology.  Animals,  moreover,  are  susceptible  of 
ardent  affection  for  human  beings  ;  they  show  a  preference  and 
attachment  to  individuals  of  a  purely  personal  nature,  quite  ii 
spective  of  services  rendered  to  them ;  and  cases  are  well  authenti 
cated  in  which  they  have  even  died  of  sorrow  at  being  deprived  by 
death  of  those  they  loved,  bemoaning  their  loss,  and  refusing  to  eat 
or  to  be  comforted.  Here,  as  ever,  the  natural  is  the  groundwork 
of  the  supernatural. 


house  of  Nazareth,  and  even  needful  food  for  the  support 
of  life  would  fail  its  holy  inmates.  On  these  occasions 
they  waited  patiently  until  the  Lord  was  pleased  to 
provide  for  their  sustenance.  One  day  (so  Maria  d'Agreda 
tells  us),  the  usual  hour  for  their  repast  having  arrived, 
there  was  nothing  for  them  to  eat.  For  this  deprivation 
they  thanked  God,  and,  waiting  until  He  should  be 
pleased  to  open  His  omnipotent  hand,  continued  in 
prayer  until  late  in  the  day.  In  the  meantime  the  angels 
prepared  a  meal  for  them,  laid  out  the  table,  and  placed 
on  it  fruit,  pure  white  bread,  and  fish,  besides  a  species 
of  conserve  of  such  exquisite  sweetness  that  earth  could 
never  have  supplied  the  like.  Then  they  called  the  holy 
spouses  to  come  and  partake  of  this  Paradisaical  feast, 
which  they  did  with  tears  of  gratitude  to  the  Sovereign 
Lord  who  had  so  miraculously  supplied  their  needs. 

Time  flowed  on,  and  the  nine  months  of  Mary's  preg- 
nancy were  drawing  towards  their  close.  Already  had 
her  blessed  hands  prepared  the  swaddling-bands  in 
which  she  was  to  envelop  the  Infant  God-Man  ;  and 
Joseph,  we  cannot  doubt,  had  lovingly  fashioned  the 
cradle  in  which  He  was  to  rest.  He  little  thought  of  the 
rough  manger  and  the  straw  which  was  to  be  the 
Saviour's  first  bed  on  earth,  as  the  hard  cross  was  to  be 
His  last.  And  so  it  seemed  as  if  in  green  Nazareth  the 
bud  of  Jesse  was  to  blossom.  But  what  said  the  Scrip- 
ture? "  And  thou,  Bethlehem  Ephrata,  art  a  little  one 
among  the  thousands  of  Juda  :  out  of  thee  shall  he  come 
forth  unto  me  that  is  to  be  the  ruler  in  Israel ;  and  his  going 
forth  is  from  the  beginning,  from  the  days  of  eternity."  : 
This  prophecy  was  well  known  among  the  Jews,  for  we 
find  that  when  King  Herod  inquired  of  the  chief  priests 
and  scribes  where  Christ  should  be  born,  they  replied, 
"  In  Bethlehem  of  Juda,"  quoting  the  prediction  of 
Micheas.  If  so,  is  it  possible  that  to  Mary  and  Joseph, 
1  Micheas  v.  2. 

228  ST.    JOSEPH. 

so  conversant  with  Holy  Writ,  it  can  have  been  un- 
known ?  And  yet  we  find  them  remaining  on  at  Naza- 
reth without  doubt  or  question.  If  this  surprises  us,  it 
is  only  because  the  strength  of  their  faith  and  their  com- 
plete abandonment  to  the  leadings  of  God's  Providence 
are  beyond  our  shallow  perception.  God  would  know 
how  to  bring  about  His  will  in  the  manner  He  pleased, 
and  they  left  all  in  His  hands.  If  Mary  was  divinely 
illuminated  with  respect  to  His  designs,  we  may  be 
certain  she  would  say  nothing,  but  leave  to  Joseph,  her 
appointed  head  and  guide,  the  direction  of  all  her  actions. 
To  Joseph  no  angel  was  sent  to  bid  him  go  to  Bethlehem, 
and  in  the  absence  of  light  from  on  high  he  certainly 
would  neither  plan,  nor  speak,  nor  move. 

God,  however,  who  disposes  human  events  in  order  to 
the  accomplishment  of  His  high  purposes,  brought  about 
the  fulfilment  of  His  word  to  the  prophet  by  an  edict  oi 
the  Eoman  Emperor,  Caesar  Augustus,  that  "  the  whol 
world"  subject  to  him  "should  be  enrolled".1  Ev( 
one  was  to  repair  to  his  own  city  to  have  his  name  set 
down  in  the  public  register.  Among  other  expositors 
Holy  Scripture,  Tirinus  says  that  in  this  general  censi 
women  and  children  were  included.  Whatever  motivi 
may  have  prompted  the  Eoman  Caesar  to  send  forth  this 
decree,  whether  it  were  the  pride  of  knowing  exactly  ho 
many  individuals  were  subject  to  his  sway,  or  for  the  sake 
the  tax  thereby  collected,  or  for  other  reasons  suiting  hi< 
policy,  he  was,  unknown  to  himself,  serving  the  secret 
designs  of  Him  who  was  his  Lord  as  well  as  of 
millions  who  were  to  be  enrolled  as  his  vassals.  Joseph 
and  Mary  were  of  the  house  and  family  of  David.  Beth- 
lehem, consequently;  was  their  city.  Thither,  therefore, 
must  they  go  to  be  inscribed.  Thus  were  the  words  of 
Micheas  to  be  literally  accomplished ;  thus,  too,  as  St. 
Thomas  has  pointed  out,  no  one,  whether  Jew  or  Gentile, 

1  St.  Luke  ii.  1. 


should  be  able  to  raise  a  question  as  to  the  birth  of  Jesus, 
His  name  being  registered  in  the  tables  of  the  Eoman 
census,  which  could  be  seen,  even  in  the  days  of  St.  John 
Chrysostom,  who  alludes  to  them.  Scarcely  was  He 
born,  says  the  Venerable  Bede,  but  He  was  inscribed  in 
Caesar's  census,  and  to  render  us  free,  made  Himself  a 
subject ;  and  St.  Alfonso  de  Liguori  says  that,  not  only 
did  Mary  and  Joseph  pay  the  tribute  and  enter  their 
names  in  the  book  as  Caesar's  subjects,  but  the  Child  of 
Mary,  Jesus  Christ  Himself,  who  was  the  Lord  of  Caesar 
and  of  all  the  princes  of  the  earth,  was  also  inscribed 
therein . 

But  to  return  to  our  narrative.  It  wanted  but  a  few 
days  of  the  time  at  which  Mary's  divine  delivery  might 
be  expected  when  Joseph  heard  the  Imperial  decree  pro- 
claimed with  sound  of  trumpet  in  Nazareth.  It  must 
have  deeply  concerned  him,  not  for  himself,  for  nothing 
which  only  personally  affected  him  could  either  grieve  or 
disturb  him,  but  through  his  solicitude  for  Mary,  and  the 
pain  he  felt  at  her  having  to  make  this  journey  of  ninety 
miles  in  her  present  state,  and  in  the  depth  of  winter. 
Whether  Mary  already  knew  that  she  should  have  to 
repair  to  Bethlehem  for  the  birth  of  her  Divine  Infant, 
or  Joseph  brought  her  the  first  intimation,  the  handmaid 
of  the  Lord  would  sweetly  accept  whatever  might  be  the 
will  of  God  in  her  regard,  and  her  cheerful  acquiescence 
must  have  encouraged  and  consoled  her  spouse.  Nor  let 
it  be  supposed  that,  while  it  was  a  virtue  in  Mary  that 
nothing  could  trouble  the  serenity  of  her  soul,  it  was  an 
imperfection  in  Joseph  to  suffer  anxiety.  God,  in  making 
him  the  husband  of  Mary  and  the  adopted  father  of  His 
Son,  had  endowed  him  with  all  the  tenderness  which 
belongs  to  and  becomes  those  relationships,  or,  rather, 
with  far  more  than  ordinary  wedlock  and  paternity  bring 
with  them ;  and,  moreover,  he  increased  his  merits  by 
the  patience  with  which  he  bore  the  pressure  of  these 

230  ST.    JOSEPH. 

high  responsibilities  upon  his  loving  heart.  As  Mary's 
compassion  was  afterwards  to  constitute  her  martyrdom 
and  her  participation  in  the  Passion  of  her  Divine  Son, 
when  the  sword  pierced  her  soul  at  the  foot  of  the  Cross, 
so  may  we  piously  believe  that  Joseph's  meritorious 
sufferings  came  to  him  much  more  through  the  love  he 
bore  the  two  heavenly  treasures  committed  to  his  keeping 
than  from  any  of  the  bodily  labours  and  trials  which  he 
endured  for  their  maintenance  and  protection.  The 
Evangelists  are  sparing  of  their  words ;  they  seldom 
record  feelings  ;  or,  at  least,  we  have  to  content  ourselves 
with  a  few  scattered  hints,  all  the  more  precious  and  all 
the  more  significant  from  their  fewness.  That  one  testi- 
mony given  by  Mary,  to  which  allusion  has  already  been 
made,  "  Thy  father  and  I  have  sought  Thee  sorrowing," 
throws  a  flood  of  light  upon  the  martyrdom  of  love  which 
consumed  the  heart  of  Joseph  during  those  thirty  years. 

There  was  no  delay ;  they  set  out  at  once.  A  small 
supply  of  provisions  to  meet  probable  deficiencies  on  the 
crowded  roads  was  laid  upon  the  ass  which  was  to  carry 
the  Mother  of  God  and  the  Incarnate  God  Himself. 
Was  it  the  same  which  had  previously  been  similarly 
favoured  when  Mary  visited  her  cousin  Elizabeth  ?  Pro- 
bably it  was.  Blessed  animal !  which  was  also  to  be 
present  at  the  Nativity,  to  recognise  and  adore  its 
Creator,  and  even  be  permitted  to  render  Him  a  service, 
when  His  own  people  had  shut  their  doors  against  Him. 
May  we  be  excused  for  pausing  here  to  express  our  un- 
feigned wonder  why  a  creature  so  singled  out  for  honour 
in  Scripture  history  should  be  commonly,  in  our  day, 
meanly  thought  of,  often  hardly  treated,  and  its  very 
name  made  a  reproach  ?  It  was  Balaam's  ass,  not  the 
proud  horse,  whose  mouth  was  opened;  it  was  an  ass 
that,  not  only  carried  Jesus  while  yet  in  His  mother's 
womb,  but  bore  Him  on  his  triumphant  entrance  into 
Jerusalem,  the  type  of  His  glorious  coming  at  the  last 


day,  of  which  circumstance  the  prophet  had  made  special 
mention  :  "  Behold  thy  King  will  come  to  thee,  the  just 
and  saviour ;  He  is  poor  and  riding  upon  an  ass,  and 
upon  a  colt  the  foal  of  an  ass".1  Perhaps  it  is  for  this 
very  reason  that  this  singularly  intelligent  and  patient 
animal  is  not  more  esteemed.  He  bears  the  sign  of  the 
cross  on  his  shoulders  and  back,  and  the  obloquy  of  the 
cross  appears  to  cling  to  him. 

We  may  imagine  what  was  the  state  of  the  roads  at 
this  time,  when  such  numbers  were  pressing  hither  and 
thither  to  repair  to  their  respective  places  of  enrolment ; 
how  every  possible  conveyance  was  in  requisition,  and 
every  beast  of  burden,  the  poor  making  their  way  as  best 
they  might  on  foot ;  how  the  inns  were  crowded — and 
by  inns  we  must  not  imagine  houses  of  entertainment, 
offering  the  comforts  which  we  expect  to  find  in  such 
places.  They  provided  shelter,  and  food  could  probably, 
though  not  always,  be  procured,  but  for  other  accom- 
modation travellers  would  have  to  supply  themselves 
with  what  they  wanted.  Anyhow,  what  was  to  be  had 
was  sure  to  fall  to  the  lot  of  the  richest  and  the  most 
importunate.  But  Joseph  and  Mary,  carrying  all  the 
riches  of  Heaven  and  earth,  travelled  in  the  garb  of 
poverty,  and  were  humble,  modest,  and  retiring.  We 
may  be  certain,  therefore,  that  the  five  days  they  are 
believed  to  have  spent  on  the  way  to  Bethlehem  were 
days  of  privation,  fatigue,  and  discomfort  of  every  kind. 
But  they  did  not  travel  alone ;  they  had  an  escort.  In 
the  Canticles  we  read :  "  Threescore  valiant  ones  of 
the  most  valiant  ones  of  Israel  surround  the  bed  of 
Solomon,  all  holding  swords  and  most  expert  in  war, 
every  man's  sword  upon  his  thigh,  because  of  fears 
in  the  night  ".2  But  many  more  were  the  valiant  ones, 
princes  of  the  armies  of  Heaven,  who  invisibly  sur- 
rounded and  protected  the  bed  of  the  True  Solomon  by 

1  Zach.  ix.  9.  2  Chap.  iii.  7,  8. 

232  ST.    JOSEPH. 

night  and  by  day.  Thousands  of  angels  attended  on 
Mary,  to  guard  her,  to  shield  her  from  the  cold  blast, 
and,  what  to  her  would  be  far  more  distressing,  the  rude 
gaze  of  the  throng.  Perhaps,  for  the  consolation  of 
Joseph,  whose  only  thought  and  solicitude  was  for  his  holy 
spouse,  he  was  allowed  a  vision  of  the  protecting  wings 
which  surrounded  her.  If  this  privilege  was  vouchsafed 
to  him  he  would  lie  down  in  peace,  and  after  the  day's 
fatigue  sleep  the  sleep  of  the  just  until  the  dawn  of 
another  winter's  day  saw  them  once  more  on  the  road  to 
the  city  of  David.  Doubtless  he  would  think  with  satis- 
faction that  when  they  had  reached  Bethlehem,  where  once 
he  had  lived  and  must  still  have  friends,  Mary  would 
have  ample  compensation  under  some  hospitable  roof  for 
all  the  trials  of  the  way.  This  hope  he  would  naturally 
express  to  her,  and  she  would  gently  assent,  even  though 
interiorly  she  might  know  it  would  be  otherwise.  • 

On  the  evening  of  the  fifth  day  they  drew  near  to 
Bethlehem,  and  the  crowd  thickened  as  they  approached 
the  town.  We  can  figure  to  ourselves  Joseph  leading 
the  meek  ass,  and  making  way  with  difficulty  for  the 
animal  and  its  Divine  burden,  no  one  giving  them  the 
slightest  heed  or  scrupling  to  push  rudely  by;  Mary 
calmly  seated  with  her  veil  drawn  around  her.  What 
an  entry  into  his  regal  city  of  the  inheritor  of  David's 
throne,  or,  rather,  of  Him  who  was  the  sovereign  of 
earth  and  Heaven  !  In  this  lowly  fashion  they  moved  on 
till  they  reached  the  chief  hostelry  of  the  place,  Joseph 
being  solicitous  to  secure  at  once  accommodation  for 
Mary,  were  it  only  a  night's  shelter,  for  darkness  was 
closing  in.  But  the  guest-house  was  full.  The  Evan- 
gelist simply  says,  "  There  was  no  room  for  them  in  the 
inn  ".1  They  were  turned  away  from  the  door,  and  had 
to  seek  a  lodging  elsewhere.  As  they  passed  the  Im- 
perial office,  where  the  names  were  entered  and  the 

1  St.  Luke  ii.  7. 


tribute-money  paid,  Joseph  would  give  his  own  and  that 
of  Mary  his  wife,  as  a  little  later  he  was  to  give  the 
Name  that  is  above  every  name.  The  injunction  of  the 
law  thus  accomplished,  Joseph  resumed  his  fruitless 
search.  Although  the  Evangelist  mentions  no  other 
place  but  the  inn,  we  may  be  sure  that  Joseph  left  no 
house  untried  where  there  was  the  least  hope  of  being 
received.  Maria  d'Agreda  says  that  they  went  to  no  less 
than  fifty,  but  everywhere  they  met  with  the  same 
repulse  and  that  cold  indifference  which  it  is  the  lot  of 
the  poor  so  often  to  experience.  Saints,  indeed,  tell  us 
so ;  for  St.  Vincent  Ferrer,  in  a  sermon  on  the  Holy 
Innocents,  says  that,  because  the  Bethlehemites  would 
not  receive  the  Virgin,  nor  Joseph,  her  spouse,  therefore 
did  God  provoke  the  wrath  of  Herod  against  them. 
Jesus  had  come  to  His  own,  and  His  own  received  Him 
not.  Hard,  indeed,  is  it  to  explain  how  Joseph  in  his 
own  native  place  could  find  no  kind  friend  and  no  shelter 
for  Mary,  in  a  condition,  too,  which  called  for  sympathy 
and  compassion  from  all.  Cleophas,  the  brother  of 
Joseph,  had,  no  doubt,  removed  to  Capharnaum  some 
time  previous  ;  and  of  his  other  relatives  there  might 
now  be  none  in  Bethlehem.  If  he  applied  to  former 
friends  they  no  longer  knew  or  acknowledged  him,  for 
Mary  and  he  were  treated  as  strangers  at  every  door. 
None  was  opened  to  receive  them.  Goats  of  the  left 
hand  were  these  hard-hearted  Bethlehemites  :  "  I  was  a 
stranger  and  ye  took  Me  not  in  "-1 

Let  us  admire  the  sweet  serenity  and  patience  of  Mary. 
We  can  scarcely  imagine  that  she  did  not  know  what 
would  be  the  result  of  each  successive  application,  but 
she  kept  silence,  committing  herself  without  reserve  to 
the  guidance  of  Joseph.  Fatigued  and  exposed  to  the 
chilling  December  blast,  she  had  to  pass  from  door  to 
door,  but,  far  more  than  the  wintry  wind,  did  these  cold 

1  St.  Matthew  xxv.  43. 



denials  pain  her.  The  wind  was  the  obedient  instrument 
of  the  good  pleasure  of  the  Most  High,  which  she  loved 
and  adored ;  but  the  Bethlehemites,  with  hearts  closed 
to  the  sweet  influences  of  divine  grace  and  even  of 
natural  kindness,  were  rebels  to  His  holy  will ;  nay,  they 
were  driving  the  Lord  Himself  from  their  doors.  But 
neither  must  we  fail  to  turn  a  look  of  tender  compassion 
on  Joseph,  whose  soul  was  filled  with  such  anguish  as  no 
words  could  tell.  We  know  what  it  is  to  be  powerless 
to  do  aught  for  those  most  dear  to  us,  and  who  depenc 
upon  our  care,  when  they  are  exposed  to  slraits  and 
perils.  But  what  is  the  fond  love  of  any  of  our  poor 
hearts  compared  to  that  of  Joseph  ?  Let  us  think,  too, 
of  the  responsibility  laid  upon  him,  and  the  correspond- 
ing strain  upon  his  mind  and  affections  :  the  care  anc 
guardianship,  not  only  of  the  Blessed  Mother  of  God,  but 
of  the  Incarnate  God  Himself  ! 

(  235  ) 


WHITHEE  were  Joseph  and  Mary  now  to  turn  ?  At 
no  great  distance  from  the  inhabited  houses,  there 
was,  on  the  slope  at  the  eastern  end  of  the  place,  a  cave 
or  grotto,  hewn  in  the  rock  on  which  stood  the  inhos- 
pitable city.  It  served  as  an  occasional  stable,  of  which 
travellers  availed  themselves  for  their  beasts,  as  well  as 
a  place  of  refuge  for  shepherds  on  cold  and  tempestuous 
nights.  Joseph,  who  had  lived  at  Bethlehem,  must  have 
known  its  surroundings  well,  and  have  been  acquainted 
with  the  existence  of  this  rough  excavation.  It  might  be 
vacant,  and  would,  at  least,  afford  some  kind  of  shelter 
for  the  remainder  of  the  night.  Hither,  therefore,  he 
directed  his  steps,  leading  the  ass  which  bore  the  Ee- 
deemer  of  the  world  and  His  august  Mother.  The  cave 
was  unoccupied  ;  how  poor  and  uninviting  it  must  have 
been  is  proved  from  this  very  fact.  Bethlehem  was  full 
to  overflowing,  yet  no  one  had  stopped  to  profit  by  this 
rude  stable.  He  who  came  to  take  the  lowest  place  had 
reserved  it  for  Himself. 

The  Evangelists,  St.  Matthew  and  St.  Luke,  both  say 
that  Christ  was  born  in  Bethlehem  of  Judea,  to  distin- 
guish it  from  another  Bethlehem  in  Galilee,  but  they  do 
not  specify  whether  the  place  of  His  birth  was  within  or 
outside  the  city.  No  reasonable  doubt,  however,  can  be 
entertained  as  to  the  locality.  Tradition  was  fresh  in  the 
days  of  St.  Helen,  mother  of  the  Emperor  Constantine, 

236  ST.    JOSEPH. 

who  built  a  large  and  sumptuous  church  on  the  spot,  in- 
cluding within  its  area  the  cave  of  the  Nativity,  at  the 
eastern  limit  of  Bethlehem,  on  the  incline  looking  north- 
wards. Further,  the  Fathers  invariably  affirm  that  Jesus 
was  born  outside,  and  not  within,  the  town.  St.  Justin 
Martyr,  who  lived  in  the  third  century,  was  a  native  of 
Sychar  in  Samaria.  He  is,  therefore,  an  excellent  autho- 
rity in  this  matter.  Now,  in  his  Dialogue  against 
Tryphon,  he  writes  thus  :  "  Since  Joseph  did  not  find 
where  to  lodge  in  the  village  of  Bethlehem,  he  repaired  to 
a  certain  grotto  near  to  it ;  and  being  there,  Mary  brought 
forth  Jesus  and  laid  Him  in  the  manger,  where  the  Magi, 
coming 'from  Arabia,  found  Him".  Eusebius  of  Pam- 
phylia  also  says  :  "  The  place  is  still  shown  near  Beth- 
lehem where  the  Virgin  brought  forth  to  the  light  and 
laid  the  Divine  Infant ".  It  is  noticeable  also  that  the 
Fathers  always  give  the  name  of  cave,  grotto,  or  den  to 
the  spot  where  Jesus  was  born,1  but  caves,  grottoes,  and 
dens  are  not  to  be  met  with  in  peopled  cities.  It  is  clear, 
then,  that  Jesus  was  born  outside  of  Bethlehem,  beyond 
the  walls,  even  as  He  willed  to  suffer  outside  the  gate 
of  Jerusalem  ;  in  which  we  discern  one  of  the  mysteries 
of  His  immense  charity  in  the  face  of  all  the  ingratitude 
and  contempt  of  men. 

A  miserable  receptacle  was  this  cave,  with  the  neglected 
stall  and  manger  of  beasts.  We  may  imagine  the  con- 
fusion and  sorrow  of  Joseph  at  having  nothing  better  to 
offer  to  his  august  spouse.  Yet  was  he  truly  thankful  to 
find  any  shelter  for  her ;  and,  when  we  speak  of  Joseph's 
sorrow,  we  must  ever  remember  that  this  sorrow  existed 
only  in  the  sensitive  portion  of  his  soul.  His  joy,  his 
delight,  was  to  fulfil  the  will  of  God.  His  devotion  to 

1  Origen  (lib.  i.  contra  Celsum)  calls  it  spdunca.  Eusebius  (in  Vita 
Constant,  lib.  iii.)  calls  it  antrum.  St.  Jerome  calls  it  a  little  cavern 
of  the  earth  :  "In  this  little  cavern  of  the  earth  the  Creator  of  the 
heavens  was  born  ".—Epist.  ad  Marccllam. 


that  holy  will  we  have  already  noticed  as  having  been 
revealed  to  St.  Bridget  by  our  Lady.  The  words  are 
brief  indeed  in  which  the  Evangelist  records  the  birth  of 
the  Saviour,  an  event  which  has  no  parallel  for  greatness 
in  the  world's  history.  We  long  for  particulars,  for 
something  on  which  our  imagination  can  feed,  and  thus 
nourish  in  us  pious  affections.  In  the  entire  absence  of 
all  detail,  we  may  gladly  avail  ourselves  of  the  picture 
presented  to  us  in  a  vision  with  which  a  'holy  soul  was 
favoured.  Maria  d' Agreda  beheld  the  most  holy  Mary  and 
St.  Joseph  entering  the  hospice  which  Divine  Providence 
had  prepared  for  them,  and  of  which,  from  the  light  given 
by  the  attendant  angels,  they  could  at  once  perceive  the 
rudeness,  the  nakedness,  and  withal  the  complete  solitude 
and  seclusion,  which  was  their  desire.  The  two  holy 
pilgrims  sank  on  their  knees  to  return  thanks  to  God  with 
tears  of  gratitude.  Our  Sovereign  Lady  understood  the 
mystery,  indeed,  better  than  did  St.  Joseph,  though  he, 
too,  was  full  of  faith  and  submission  to  the  appointments 
of  God's  wisdom  ;  for  no  sooner  had  Mary's  feet  touched 
the  floor  of  the  cave  than  she  felt  an  overflowing  fulness 
of  interior  joy,  so  that  she  immediately  poured  forth  a 
prayer  to  God  that  He  would  liberally  reward  the 
Bethlehemites,  who  by  closing  their  doors  against  her- 
self and  her  spouse  had  been  the  occasion  of  obtaining 
them  so  great  a  boon  as  the  occupation  of  this  tranquil 

Mary's  angels  stood  around  her,  like  a  guard  of  honour, 
visible  to  her  in  human  form,  and  to  Joseph  also,  such 
consolation  being  due  to  him  in  his  anxiety  and  as  a 
preparation  for  the  great  mystery  about  to  follow ;  for  as 
yet  he  was  ignorant  that  Mary's  delivery  was  to  take 
place  in  this  abject  abode.  Mary,  however,  knew  it,  and 
determined  to  clear  with  her  own  hands  the  place  which 
was  to  serve  as  a  royal  palace  to  the  Eternal  King,  dis- 
charging thereby  at  once  a  lowly  office  and  paying  due 

238  ST.    JOSEPH. 

reverence  to  her  Divine  Son.  But  Joseph,  regarding  the 
majesty  of  his  most  holy  spouse,  of  which  she  herself 
took  no  account,  intreated  her  to  leave  to  him  the  work 
she  desired  to  do,  and  began  at  once  to  sweep  the  floor  of 
the  cavern,  Mary  still  lending  her  aid ;  and  then  the 
angels,  as  if  fired  with  a  holy  emulation,  came  to  her 
help,  and  had  soon  cleansed  the  whole  interior,  which 
they,  moreover,  illuminated  and  filled  with  a  heavenly 
fragrance.  It  was  fitting,  indeed,  that,  humble  as  it  was, 
the  place  should  be  purified  where  the  Lord  of  Heaven, 
Purity  Itself,  was  to  repose.  Joseph  kindled  a  fire,  with 
the  means  of  doing  which  he  had  come  provided,  for  the 
cold  was  great,  and  Mary  and  he  sat  by  it,  partaking  of  some 
frugal  viands  which  they  had  brought  with  them,  although 
Mary  ate  only  to  conform  herself  to  Joseph's  washes,  for 
she  was  becoming  more  and  more  absorbed  in  the  con- 
templation of  the  approaching  mystery.  Knowing  that 
the  hour  was  drawing  nigh,  she  presently  besought  her 
holy  spouse  to  go  and  take  some  rest ;  and  he,  complying 
with  her  desire,  begged  her  to  do  the  same  ;  with  which 
view  he  laid  coverings  upon  a  rude  manger  that  was 
there,  to  serve  her  as  a  couch.  He  then  retired  apart  into 
a  corner  of  the  cavern,  and,  being  immersed  in  prayer, 
the  Spirit  of  God  came  upon  him,  with  a  plenitude  of 
power  and  sweetness  which  ravished  his  soul  in  ecstasy, 
during  which  he  had  a  vision  of  all  that  took  place  in 
that  blest  spot.  Nor  did  he  return  to  consciousness  till 
he  heard  the  voice  of  his  august  spouse  calling  him  ;  and 
this  deep  sleep  into  which  Joseph  had  been  cast  was 
more  marvellous  and  more  sublime  than  that  of  Adam  in 
the  terrestrial  Paradise. 

Meanwhile  Mary  had  received  a  call  from  the  Most 
High  which  exalted  her  far  above  all  created  things. 
This  ecstasy  was  one  of  the  highest  and  most  admirable 
to  which  she  was  raised  during  her  most  holy  life ;  and 
by  it  she  was  so  transformed  and  illuminated  as  to  fit 


her  for  the  intuitive  vision  of  God.1  During  this  rapture 
her  Divine  Son  declared  to  her  that  the  time  of  His  birth 
was  come.  Mary,  prostrate  in  profound  humility,  gave 
glory  and  thanks  to  God  on  the  part  of  all  creatures, 
begging  for  herself  new  light  and  grace,  that  she  might 
know  how  to  treat,  and  serve,  and  pay  homage  to  the 
Word-made-Man,  whom  she  was  to  receive  into  her  arms 
and  nourish  at  her  breast,  for  she  esteemed  herself 
utterly  unworthy  of  such  an  office ;  and,  because  she 
thus  humbled  herself,  the  Lord  magnified  her,  bidding 
her,  as  His  true  and  legitimate  mother,  to  exercise  this 
office  and  ministry,  and  to  treat  Him  as  at  once  the  Son 
of  the  Eternal  Father  and  the  offspring  of  her  own 
womb.  This  rapture,  accompanied  by  the  beatific  vision, 
continued  for  above  an  hour,  and  concluded  with  her 
divine  delivery,  which,  so  far  from  causing  her  pain, 
filled  her  with  ineffable  bliss,  of  which,  not  the  soul  only, 
but  the  body  partook,  which  became  so  spiritualised, 
beautiful,  and  refulgent  that  she  no  longer  seemed  to 
belong  to  this  earth.  Eays  of  light  emanated  from  her 
|  countenance,  which  wore  a  most  majestic  aspect.  She 
was  on  her  knees  in  the  manger,  her  eyes  raised  to 
Heaven,  her  hands  joined  before  her  bosom,  her  spirit 
raised  to  God,  and  herself,  as  it  were,  all  deified ;  and  it 
was  in  this  attitude,  when  the  hour  of  midnight  had 
struck,  that  she  gave  to  the  world  the  Only-Begotten 
Son  of  the  Father,  and  her  own  son  too,  our  Saviour 
Jesus,  true  God  and  true  Man. 

He  came  forth  from  His  virginal  cloister  even  as  the 

|  j  rays  of  the  sun  penetrate  without  impairing  the  crystal 

!  glass,  as  hereafter  He  was  to  pass  through  the  stone  of 

i  His  monument  and  the  closed  doors  of  the  Coenaculum. 


1  Several  theologians,  and  among  them  St.  Antoninus  and  Suarez, 
are  of  opinion  that  it  is  highly  probable  that  the  Blessed  Virgin  was 
raised  to  the  clear  vision 'of  God  at  the  hour  of  the  Nativity,  as  also 
:  at  the  Annunciation,  if  not  more  often,  as  saints  have  held. 


240  ST.    JOSEPH. 

He  came  forth  leaving  His  mother's  pure  virginity,  not 
only  inviolate  and  unimpaired,  but  more  resplendent  than 
before.  He  came  forth,  Himself  most  pure  and  most 
beautiful.  It  was  a  birth,  although  a  true  and  real  birth, 
free  from  all  those  humiliating  accompaniments  which 
our  fallen  nature  has  inherited.  Moreover,  although  He 
had  taken  our  passible  nature,  and,  having  done  so, 
withheld  from  His  body  that  participation  in  the  glorious 
endowments  which  were  its  due,  yet  the  Divine  Wisdom 
decreed  that  the  glory  of  His  most  holy  soul  should  be 
communicated  to  the  body  of  the  Infant  God  when 
coming  into  the  world  ;  even  as  on  Thabor,  when  He  was 
transfigured  in  the  presence  of  the  three  Apostles ;  for 
it  was  the  will  of  God  that  the  Blessed  Mother  should 
behold  her  Son  for  the  first  time  in  glorified  form ;  and 
this  for  two  ends :  the  one,  that  by  the  sight  of  His 
grandeur  she  should  conceive  with  what  reverence  she 
was  to  treat  the  God-Man,  her  Son;  for,  although  she 
knew  this  already,  the  Lord  ordained  that  she  should 
also  realise  it  experimentally,  and  receive  a  new  grace 
corresponding  to  this  divine  experience.  The  second 
object  was  to  bestow  on  her  by  this  marvellous  sight  a 
reward  for  her  fidelity  and  love,  in  that  her  most  chaste 
eyes,  which  had  never  rested  on  anything  earthly  from 
the  affection  she  bore  her  Divine  Son,  should  be  rejoiced 
by  beholding  Him  born  all  glorious  and  resplendent. 

St.  Michael  and  St.  Gabriel  were  seen  by  the  favoured 
soul  whose  vision  we  are  briefly  describing,  standing  at  a 
short  distance  from  our  Lady,  and  when  the  Divine 
Infant  came  forth  they  received  Him  into  their  arms 
with  incomparable  reverence,  and  held  Him  up  before 
the  eyes  of  His  Virgin  Mother,  as  the  priest  elevates  the 
Host  for  the  adoration  of  the  faithful.  The  Son  and  the 
Mother  looked  at  each  other — His  heart  filled  with  un- 
utterable love  for  her,  and  she  elevated  and  transformed 
into  Him.  The  mystical  language  of  the  Canticles  could 


alone  render  what  then  passed  between  the  God-Man 
and  her  who  is  symbolised  as  the  beloved  in  the  Song  of 
Songs  :  "  My  dove,  my  perfect  one,  the  only  one  of  her 
mother,  the  chosen  of  her  that  bore  her.  The  daughters 
saw  her,  and  declared  her  most  blessed.  How  beauti- 
ful art  thou,  my  love,  how  beautiful  art  thou !  thy  eyes 
are  dove's  eyes.  Thou  art  all  fair,  0  my  love,  and  there 
is  not  a  spot  in  thee.  Thou  hast  wounded  my  heart."1 
And  she  replies  :  "  My  beloved  to  me  and  I  to  him.  My 
beloved  is  white  and  ruddy,  chosen  out  of  thousands. 
Behold,  my  beloved  speaketh  to  me.  Arise,  make  haste, 
my  love,  my  dove,  my  beautiful  one,  and  come."2  The 
Divine  Infant  spoke  audibly,  at  least,  to  the  heart  of  His 
mother.  He  told  her  that  she  was  to  resemble  Him,  so 
that,  as  she  had  given  Him  His  human  nature,  so  would 
He  henceforth  give  her  a  new  being  of  grace,  which, 
although  that  of  a  pure  creature,  should  nevertheless  be 
most  like  unto  His,  which  was  divine.  And  the  beloved 
replied :  "  Draw  me :  we  will  run  after  thee  to  the 
odour  of  thy  ointments  "  .3  But  who  can  express  what 
passed  in  that  mysterious  but  brief  colloquy  of  love? 
The  grace  which  Mary  then  received  accompanied  her 
through  life,  when  she  became  the  living  pattern  and 
mirror,  and  the  exact  similitude,  so  far  as  was  possible 
to  a  pure  creature,  of  Christ,  true  God  and  Man.  The 
Divine  Infant  then  suspended  the  miracle,  or,  rather,  He 
returned  to  that  miraculous  state  wherein  the  gifts  of 
glory  were  withheld  from  His  most  holy  Body.  He 
manifested  Himself  to  His  mother  without  them  in  His 
passible  nature,  and  in  that  state,  profoundly  adoring 
Him,  she  received  Him  into  her  arms  from  the  holy 
archangels,  offered  herself  to  Him  to  serve  Him  as  His 
handmaid,  and  forthwith  offered  Him  to  the  Eternal 

1  Chap.  vi.  8  ;  iv.  1,  7,  9.  2  Ibid.  vi.  2;  v.  10;  ii.  10. 

3  Ibid.  i.  3. 


242  .  ST.    JOSEPH. 

Father  for  the  salvation  of  men.  Then,  looking  at  her 
Divine  Son,  the  joy  of  her  heart,  she  besought  Him  to 
admit  her  to  that  kiss  which  is  the  desire  of  all  creatures : 
"  Let  him  kiss  me  with  the  kiss  of  his  mouth  ";*  and  so 
she  pressed  her  most  pure  lips  to  His,  and  received  the 
loving  embrace  of  her  God  and  her  Son.  And  in  her 
arms,  which  served  Him  as  an  altar,  all  the  angels  of 
Heaven  came  to  worship  Him.  Heaven  was  well-nigh 
empty  that  Christmas  night,  or,  rather,  the  court  of 
Heaven  was  in  the  stable  of  Bethlehem,  for  the  other 
Persons  of  the  Blessed  Trinity  were  present  in  a  special 
manner  at  the  Nativity  of  the  Word  made  Flesh. 

It  was  now  time  for  the  most  prudent  Virgin  to  call  her 
faithful  spouse,  Joseph,  who,  as  has  been  said,  was  in  an 
ecstasy,  and  had  known  by  revelation  all  the  mysteries  of 
this  Divine  Birth.  It  was  now  fitting  that  he  should 
with  his  bodily  senses  see,  touch,  reverence,  and  adore 
the  Incarnate  God,  and  this  before  any  other  mortal  man. 
Eeturning,  then,  from  his  ecstasy,  at  Mary's  call,  the  first 
object  on  which  Joseph's  eyes  rested  was  the  Infant  God 
in  the  arms  of  His  Virgin  Mother,  leaning  against  her 
cheek  and  sacred  bosom.  Here  he  adored  Him  with 
profound  humility  and  many  tears,  and  kissed  His  feet 
with  such  joy  and  admiration  that  if  divine  power  had 
not  supported  him  he  would  have  died  for  very  joy  and 
love.  Our  Lady  now,  with  unspeakable  reverence, 
wrapped  the  Infant  Saviour  in  the  swaddling-bands  which 
she  had  prepared,  and  then,  as  St.  Luke  says,  laid  Him 
in  the  manger,  in  which  Joseph  had  strewn  some  hay 
and  straw  to  render  the  bed  less  hard  for  His  tender 

Having  now  been  adored  by  angels  and  men,  the  God- 
Man  was  to  receive  the  homage  of  those  inferior  creatures 
of  His  hand  whom  we  are  in  the  habit  of  styling  brute 
beasts.  They  had  an  honourable  post  on  this  occasion. 
1  Canticles  i.  1. 


In  the  stable  was  an  ox,1  together  with  the  ass  which 
had  borne  Mary  and  her  precious  Burden ;  and  at  the 
voice  of  their  Sovereign  Mistress  the  innocent  animals 
knelt  down  before  the  Infant  in  the  manger.  Then, 
drawing  nigh,  they  stood  on  either  side  and  warmed 
Him  with  their  breath,  thus  doing  Him  both  the  homage 
and  the  service  which  men  had  denied  Him.  Let  us 
gaze  for  a  moment  at  this  touching  scene  :  God-made- 
Man,  wrapped  in  swaddling-bands,  lying  in  the  manger 
between  two  animals,  as  the  Church  records  in  the 
Divine  Office  for  Good  Friday.2  Then  was  literally  ful- 
filled the  prediction  of  Isaias  (i.  2)  :  "  The  ox  knoweth 
his  owner,  and  the  ass  his  master's  crib ;  but  Israel  hath 
not  known  me,  and  my  people  hath  not  understood". 
St.  Jerome  is  an  authentic  testimony  to  this  tradition, 
for,  writing  to  Eustochium,  he  tells  her  how  her  mother, 
the  noble  matron  Paula,  so  devout  an  adorer  in  the  Holy 
Places,  having  entered  the  cave  of  the  Nativity,  beheld 
the  stall  in  which  the  ox  knew  his  owner,  and  the  ass  the 
crib  of  his  master.  St.  Gregory  Nazianzen  and  St. 
Gregory  of  Nyssa  affirm  the  like ;  and  the  Church,  as 
Iwe  have  said,  lends  her  venerable  sanction  to  this  pious 
and  touching  belief. 

Tradition  has  also  preserved  the  memory  of  many 
[wonders  said  to  have  taken  place  on  the  night  of  the 
(Nativity,  to  which  more  or  less  credence  has  been 
Attached ;  others  have  been  alluded  to  by  ecclesiastical 
(writers.  From  the  living  rock  in  this  blessed  grotto  a 
rein  of  pure  water  began  to  flow  ;  it  was  still  to  be  seen 
;n  the  time  of  the  "Venerable  Bede.  When  we  recollect 
(he  marvel  of  the  grotto  of  Lourdes  in  our  own  day,  we 

I  l  It  has  been  held  by  several  Doctors,  quoted  by  Benedict  XIII. , 
hat  the  ox  also  belonged  to  Joseph,  and  was  brought  by  him  to 
,arry  such  few  things  as  he  thought  might  be  needed. 

2  The  Septuagint  Version  has  this  rendering  of  the  passage  in  the 
irophecy  of  Habacuc  iii.  2. 

244  ST.    JOSEPH. 

feel  that  such  a  miraculous  occurrence  was  more  than 
probable.  The  vines  of  Engaddi  blossomed ;  the  oracle 
of  Delphos  was  silenced  ; l  idols  fell  to  the  ground,  both 
at  Rome  and  in  Egypt ;  the  Emperor  Augustus  is  said  to 
have  seen  in  the-  air  the  Yirgin  and  Child  on  the  summit 
of  the  Capitol,  where  now  stands  the  Church  of  Ara 
Coeli ;  a  fountain  of  oil  sprang  from  the  Taverna  Meri- 
toria,  on  the  site  of  the  present  sumptuous  Basilica  of 
Santa  Maria  in  Trastevere,  and  ran  as  far  as  the  Tiber. 
These  and  other  signs  are  said  to  have  accompanied  the 
birth  of  the  Saviour  of  the  world ;  and  it  is  worthy  of 
remark  that  even  to  our  day,  and  among  the  Protestant 
peasantry  of  our  own  land,  pious  beliefs  are  still  cherished 
concerning  the  marvels  said  to  be  repeated  on  each  night 
of  the  Nativity.2  There  is  a  sweetness  in  the  memory  of 
that  joyful  mystery  of  our  Catholic  faith  which  lingers  on 
in  spite  of  the  chilling,  poisonous  atmosphere  of  unbelief. 

1  "  The  oracles  are  dumb, 
No  voice  or  hideous  hum 

Runs  through  the  arched  roof  in  words  deceiving. 
Apollo  from  his  shrine 
Can  no  more  divine, 

With  hollow  shriek  the  steep  of  Delphos  leaving. 

Our  Babe,  to  show  His  Godhead  true, 

Can  in  His  swaddling-bands  coiitroul  the  damned  crew. 

And  all  about  the  courtly  stable 
Bright-hamess'd  angels  sit  in  order  ^serviceable." 

— Milton,  Hymn  on  the  Nativity. 

2  As  an  instance,  the  blossoming  of  the  Glastonbury  thorn 
be  mentioned,  and  another,  not  so  well  known,  current  among 
peasantry  of  that  once  most  Catholic  county,  Devonshire,  that  on 
Christmas  night  the  cattle  go  down  on  their  knees  in  their  stalls. 
The  writer  has  this  on  the  authority  of  a  native  of  Devonshire,  now 
a  Catholic,  who  in  her  youth  was  assured  that  this  always  takes 
place.  We  give  the  fact  for  what  it  may  be  worth  ;  it  is  a  testi- 
mony, at  least,  to  the  undying  hold  of  Catholic  traditions  on  our 

(  245  ) 


ON  this  blessed  Christmas  night  our  great  patriarch 
St.  Joseph  entered  on  the  exercise  of  his  high 
prerogative  of  father  of  Jesus.  That  paternity,  as  has 
been  shown,  was  far  superior  -to  a  mere  legal,  that  is, 
adopted  paternity.  Jesus,  although  not  his  true  son,  was 
much  more  than  his  adopted  son.  An  adopted  son  is 
one  who,  born  of  strangers,  is  received  into  another 
house  where  the  marriage  has  been  unfruitful,  and 
formally  invested  with  this  title.  Not  so  Jesus.  Jesus 
was  born  miraculously  from  the  virginal  espousals  of 
Joseph  and  of  his  true  and  legitimate  spouse.  He  .was 
born  in  Joseph's  house,  not  by  a  legal  fiction,  but  by  a 
divine  ordinance.  Joseph,  therefore,  is  more  than  the 
putative  or  reputed  father  of  Jesus  ;  and,  if  the  Church 
calls  him  so,  it  is,  says  the  learned  Estius,  to  exclude  the 
idea  of  natural  generation.1  On  the  night  of  the  Nativity 
he  entered  practically  on  all  the  essential  prerogatives 
and  attributes  of  paternity  imparted  to  him  by  God, 
which,  as  the  Blessed  Canisius,  a  profound  theologian 
who  was  at  the  Council  of  Trent,  observes,  are  chiefly 
three  :  affection,  care,  and  authority.2  He  had  paternal 
affection ;  for,  as  the  Abbot  Eupert  assures  us,  the  Holy 
Spirit,  who  formed  the  members  of  Jesus  of  Mary's  blood, 
infused  into  Joseph's  heart  the  most  tender  love  for  the 

1  Lib.  iv.  Sent.  dist.  xxx.  sect.  x. 
2  Trad,  de  B.  V.  Deipara,  lib.  ii.  cap.  xiii. 

246  ST.    JOSEPH. 

Divine  Infant  who  was  about  to  be  born.1  Also  the 
Eternal  Father,  who  begets  His  Son  from  all  eternity, 
willing,  in  a  certain  sense,  to  share  with  Joseph  His 
paternity  of  Jesus  born  in  the  fulness  of  time,  caused,  as 
it  were,  a  spark  of  the  infinite  love  which  He  bears  to 
His  Divine  Son  to  descend  into  the  bosom  of  Joseph  ; 
and  this  new  paternal  affection,  joined  to  his  already 
boundless  charity,  began  from  this  moment  to  kindle  in 
his  heart  such  a  flame  of  love  towards  Jesus  that,  next  to 
that  of  Mary,  its  like  was  never  found  among  men,  nor 
ever  shall  be,  not  even  among  the  angels  themselves. 
His  solicitude  and  care  for  this  Divine  Son  were  inex- 
pressible ;  for  no  father  ever  did  so  much  or  endured  so 
much  for  his  children  as  did  Joseph  for  Jesus.  And, 
finally,  he  had  paternal  authority.  This  is  why  Jesus 
was  always  submissive  and  obedient  to  Joseph,  and  why 
Joseph  himself,  notwithstanding  his  deep  reverence  for 
Jesus,  ventured  to  fill  the  father's  position  of  command. 

In  virtue  of  his  paternal  rights  Joseph  had  also  become 
the  head,  the  arbiter,  and  administrator  of  the  Holy 
Family.  The  devout  Bernardine  de  Bustis  says  that 
it  is  of  Joseph,  set  over  this  sovereign  family  of  God,  that 
these  words  of  Jesus  reported  by  St.  Luke  and  St.  Mat- 
thew may  be  understood :  "  Who,  thinkest  thou,  is  the 
faithful  and  wise  steward  whom  his  lord  setteth  over  his 
family?"2  It  is  almost  as  if  He  had  named  Joseph. 
Now,  who  can  measure  the  greatness  of  this  dignity,  to 
be  head,  and  ruler,  and  administrator  of  Him  who  is 
King  of  kings  and  Lord  of  lords,  and  of  her  who  is  Queen 
of  heaven  and  earth?  This  dignity,  says  the  learned- 
Cartagena,  without  doubt  far  surpasses  all  principality, 
whether  human  or  divine ;  and  clearly  did  the  Eternal 
Father  mark  that  to  Joseph  was  committed  the  care  and 
rule  of  this  most  Holy  Family,  when  to  him  alone, 

1  In  Matthceum,  cap.  i. 
2  St.  Luke  xii.  42 ;  cow/.  St.  Matthew  xxiv.  45. 


through  His  angels,  did  He  dispatch  His  messages  from 
Heaven,  telling  Joseph  what  he  was  to  do,  whither  he 
was  to  go,  and  what  road  he  was  to  take  in  order  to  place 
those  most  dear  pledges,  Mary  and  Jesus,  in  safety.  In 
him,  in  short,  was  fulfilled  what  had  been  prefigured  in 
the  ancient  Joseph,  who  by  the  great  king  Pharao  "  was 
made  lord  of  his  house  and  ruler  of  all  his  possession  ".* 

In  that  -blessed  night  also  Joseph  became  the  patron^ 
the  vicar,  and  the  patriarch  of  the  whole  Catholic 
Church.  It  is  certain,  St.  Athanasius  tells  us,  that 
the  stable  where  Jesus  was  born  is  "a  figure  of  the 
Church,  whose  altar  is  the  manger,  whose  vicar  is  Joseph, 
whose  ministers  are  the  shepherds,  whose  priests  are  the 
angels,  whose  great  High-Priest  is  Jesus  Christ,  and 
whose  throne  is  the  Blessed  Virgin  ".2  Since,  then,  this 
grotto  and  crib  is  the  figure  of  the  Church,  and  Joseph 
is  its  vicar,  as  representing  the  High-Priest,  Christ  Jesus, 
and  acting  in  His  place,  well  did  it  become  our  late 
venerated  Pontiff,  Pius  IX.,  to  proclaim  Joseph  Patron  of 
.the  Universal  Church.  There  is  yet  another  reason.  The 
Church  took  its  beginning  from  Jesus  Christ,  who  was  its 
Divine  founder.  The  first  to  form  part  of  that  Church 
was  Mary  ;  th'e  second  was  Joseph.  But  of  this  nascent 
Church,  limited  as  yet  to  the  Holy  Family,  who  was  the 
tutor,  the  protector,  the  head?  Joseph.  And,  if  he 
filled  this  office  towards  the  Church  at  its  birth,  he  did 
not  cease  to  exercise  it  after  its  birth  and  diffusion 
throughout  the  world.  Wherefore,  with  greater  reason 
than  Abraham  can  he  be  called,  as  truly  he  is,  the  Father 
of  the  Faithful. 

But  we  will  now  return  to  contemplate  the  grotto  of 
the  Nativity,  where  Mary  and  Joseph  are  adoring  the 
new-born  Infant.  The  first  exercise  of  Joseph's  paternal 
solicitude  (to  which  allusion  has  already  been  made)  was 

1  Psalm  civ.  21. 
2  Horn,  in  Censum  B.  Marice  Virginia  et  S.  Joseph. 

248  ST.    JOSEPH. 

the  endeavour  to  render  the  hard  bed  of  the  manger  more 
tolerable  to  the  tender  limbs  of  the  Babe.  Nor  can  we 
doubt  that  he  lost  no  time  in  employing  his  carpenter's 
skill  in  constructing  out  of  such  rude  materials  as  were 
available  a  more  suitable  cradle  for  the  Divine  Child. 
That  he  did  so  is  certain,  for  this  is  the  cradle  which  is 
still  venerated  at  Santa  Maria  Maggiore  in  Borne,  called 
on  this  account  Santa  Maria  ad  prcesepe.1 

While  the  mystery  of  the  Nativity  was  being  accom- 
plished in  the  stable  of  Bethlehem,  there  were  at  the 
distance,  perhaps,  of  a  thousand  paces,  near  the  Tower  of 
Edar  (or  the  Flock),  some  simple  shepherds  "keeping 
the  night-watches  over  their  flock,"  in  that  fair  plain 
where  Jacob  of  old  pastured  his  sheep,2  where  Booz,  the 
great-grandfather  of  David,  commanded  his  reapers  to 
drop  some  corn,  that  the  beautiful  Euth  might  return 
from  gleaning  with  her  hands  full,8  and  where  David, 
tending  his  sheep,  was  called  to  be  anointed  king  by 
Samuel.4  Suddenly,  in  the'midst  of  the  darkness,  a  great 
light  flashed  upon  them,  illuminating  the  whole  heavens 
"And  behold,"  says  the  Evangelist,  "an  angel  of  the 
Lord  stood  by  them,  and  they  feared  with  a  great  fear. 
And  the  angel  said  to  them  :  Fear  not ;'  for  behold 
bring  you  good  tidings  of  great  joy  which  shall  be  to  all 
the  people ;  for  this  day  is  born  to  you  a  Saviour,  who  is 
Christ  the  Lord,  in  the  city  of  David.  And  this  shall  be 
a  sign  unto  you :  you  shall  find  the  infant  wrapped  in 
swaddling  clothes  and  laid  in  a  manger.  And  suddenly 
there  was  with  the  angel  a  multitude  of  the  heavenly 

1  Pope  Theodore,  a  native  of  Palestine,  saved  this  cradle  durii 
the  Mahometan  invasion,  in  the  year   642,  and  caused  it  to 
carried  away,  together  with  the  body  of  St.  Jerome,  who  had  bee 
its  faithful  custodian,  and  brought  to  Borne,  where  the  precious  relic 
were  received  with  the  greatest  reverence  and  joy,  and  deposited  ri 
the  Basilica  Liberiana,  afterwards  called  Santa  Maria  ad  prcesepe. 
2  Gen.  xxxv.  21.  3  Kuth  ii.  4  1  Kings  xvi.  4,  13. 


army,  praising  God,  and  saying,  Glory  to  God  in  the 
highest,  and  on  earth  peace  to  men  of  good-will."1 

God  had  promised  by  the  mouth  of  His  prophets  that 
He  would  send  a  Eedeemer  to  the  world,  and  that  He 
should  be  born  in  Bethlehem  ;  and  He  had  now  punctu- 
ally fulfilled  His  promise.  But,  as  this  promise  had  been 
made  to  His  chosen  people,  so  also  was  the  chosen  people 
the  first  called  to  know  and  adore  the  new-born  Messias. 
The  first  manifestation  which  Jesus  made  of  Himself  was 
to  the  shepherds  of  Bethlehem ;  the  second  was  to  the 
Gentiles,  that  is,  to  the  Magi,  the  first  fruits  of  the  Gen- 
tiles. Jesus  revealed  Himself  first  to  simple  and  blame- 
less shepherds,  because  He  loves  to  converse  with  the 
simple ;  and  it  was  to  shepherds  that  He  made  Himself 
known,  to  show  that  He,  the  Pastor  of  pastors,  came  to 
call  new  pastors,  who  were  to  feed  His  new  flock,  the 
Church.  He  surrounded  them  with  a  bright  light,  to 
signify  that  with  His  heavenly  doctrine  He  came  to 
enlighten  all  men.  And,  finally,  He  called  and  instructed 
them  by  the  mouth  of  an  angel,  because  they  were 
believers,  whereas  He  called  the  Gentiles  to  Him,  that  is, 
the  Magi,  by  means  of  a  star,  a  thing  unendowed  with 
reason,  and  a  miraculous  sign,  because  (as  St.  Gregory 
observes)  to  the  faithful  the  language  of  faith  is  the  most 
fitting,  but  to  non-believers  the  language  of  miracles. 
And  St.  Paul,  before  him,  had  already  clearly  said  that 
the  voice  of  prodigies  was  not  for  the  faithful,  but  for  the 
unfaithful  in  order  that  they  might  believe,  and  the  voice 
of  revelation  is  not  for  the  unfaithful  but  for  the  faith- 
ful, who  already  believe  in  God.2 

We  need  not  suppose  that  this  refulgent  light  which 
struck  the  eyes  of  the  shepherds  was  limited  to  the  spot 

1  St.  Luke  ii.  8-14. 

2  "  Wherefore  tongues  are  for  a  sign,  not  to  believers  but  to  un- 
believers ;  but  prophecies,  not  to  unbelievers  but  to  believers  "  (1 
Cor.  xiv.  22). 

250  ST.    JOSEPH. 

where  they  were  keeping  their  night-watches.  It  pro- 
bably illuminated  the  whole  neighbourhood,  and  shone 
all  around  the  city  of  David,  so  that,  if  any  had  been 
awake,  they  might  have  supposed  that  a  new  sun  had 
arisen  in  Bethlehem,  and  that  night  had  been  turned  into 
day ;  but  the  Bethlehemites  were  plunged  in  profound 
sleep,  and  none  saw  it,  or  none  noticed  it.  This  light 
may  have  been  visible  even  as  far  as  Jerusalem,  which  is 
not  many  miles  distant,  giving  a  literal  application  to  the 
words  of  the  prophet  Isaias,  when  he  cried,  "  Arise,  be 
enlightened,  O  Jerusalem  ;  for  thy  light  is  come,  and  the 
glory  of  the  Lord  is  risen  upon  thee  "-1  But  we  do  not 
hear  that  a  single  living  soul  gave  heed  to  that  heavenly 
portent  save  a  few  poor  shepherds,  for  all  were  sunk  in 
sleep,  symbol  of  the  gross  darkness  in  which  the  world 
was  plunged. 

But  who  was  that  glorious  angel  who  announced  the 
good  tidings  to  the  shepherds,  and  who  seems  to  have 
been  the  leader  of  the  angelical  army  which  suddenly 
burst  upon  their  sight.  According  to  the  Fathers  and 
Doctors  of  the  Church,  it  was  the  Archangel  Gabriel.  He 
who  was  to  announce  the  highest  of  mysteries  must  needs 
be  an  angel  of  highest  dignity,  as  St.  Gregory  the  Great 
observes.  Gabriel  was  also  the  special  angel  of  the 
Incarnation  (as  Cornelius  a  Lapide  points  out)  to  whom 
all  the  solemn  embassages  connected  with  that  sublime 
mystery  were  intrusted,  beginning  with  the  revelation  to 
the  prophet  Daniel  of  the  period  of  the  seventy  weeks. 

When  the  angels  had  departed,  the  shepherds  said  one 
to  another,  "  Let  us  go  over  to  Bethlehem,  and  let  us  see 
this  word  that  is  come  to  pass,  which  the  Lord  hath 
showed  to  us''.  They  lost  no  time,  for  the  Evangelist 
adds,  "they  came  with  haste".2  The  angel  had,  per- 
haps, indicated  to  them  the  precise  spot  where  they 
would  find  the  new-born  Saviour,  or  the  angelic  light 
1  Chap.  lx.  1.  2  St.  Luke  ii.  15,. 16. 


issuing  from  the  cave  may  have  guided  their  steps. 
"And  they  found  Mary  and  Joseph,  and  the  Infant 
lying  in  the  manger,  and  seeing,  they  understood  of  the 
word  that  had  been  spoken  to  them  concerning  this 
child." x  How  much  is  comprehended  in  that  word 
"  understood "!  They  saw,  and  they  adored  with  un- 
doubting  faith.  It  is  to  the  simple  and  the  child-like, 
such  as  were  these  shepherds,  that  the  Lord  unveils  the 
mysteries  of  His  kingdom.  We  are  reminded  here  of 
those  words  which  He  afterwards  uttered  :  "  I  confess  to 
Thee,  O  Father,  Lord  of  heaven  and  earth;  because 
Thou  hast  hid  these  things  from  the  wise  and  prudent, 
and  hast  revealed  them  to  little  ones.  Yea,  Father  ;  for 
so  it  hath  seemed  good  in  Thy  sight."2  We  may  imagine 
with  what  grace  and  kindness  Mary  and  Joseph  received 
these  good  men,  listened  to  their  narration,  replied  to 
their  questions,  and  gave  them  what  further  instruction 
they  needed. 

Nor  can  we  suppose  that  this  was  the  only  visit  which 
these  shepherds  paid  to  the  stable  in  the  rock,  or  the  only 
time  that  they  had  the  happiness  of  adoring  the  Divine 
Infant.  During  the  remainder  of  the  time  that  Mary 
and  Joseph  tarried  there  they  would  surely  return  again 
more  than  once,  bringing  probably  some  little  offering 
out  of  their  scanty  means.  When  the  Gospel  says  that 
"  all  that  heard  wondered,  and  at  those  things  that  were 
told  them  by  the  shepherds"  ;  and  that  "  the  shepherds 
returned  glorifying  and  praising  God  for  all  the  things 
they  had  heard  and  seen,"3  the  action  alluded  to  was 
probably  their  return  to  their  own  homes,  and  after  the 
departure  of  the  Holy  Family  from  the  cave.  So,  at 
least.,  thinks  Maria  d'Agreda,  and  that  Divine  Wisdom 
so  decreed  it.  Had  their  report  been  immediately 

1  St.  Luke  iii.  16,  17.  2  St.  Matthew  xi.  25,  26. 

3  St.  Luke  ii.  18,  20. 



published  and  generally  believed — which  in  the  first 
instance,  however,  it  was  perhaps  not  likely  to  be, 
coming  from  ignorant  rustics,  as  they  would  have  been 
reckoned — there  would,  if  only  from  curiosity,  have  been 
some  concourse  of  other  inhabitants  of  the  neighbour- 
hood, of  which  we  hear  nothing,  and  which  would  have 
entailed  a  publicity  which  did  not  enter  into  the  designs 
of  God.  Maria  d'Agreda  says  that  among  those  who 
credited  the  report  which  subsequently  spread  was  Herod, 
and  that  among  the  martyred  innocents  were  some  chil- 
dren of  these  holy  men,  who  offered  them  with  joy  to 
suffer  for  the  Saviour  whom  they  already  knew.  But 
how  many  in  number  were  these  shepherds,  and  what 
were  their  names  ?  Scripture  does  not  inform  us,  but,  as 
we  know  from  the  authority  of  ancient  writers  that  near 
to  the  Tower  of  Edar  was  subsequently  built  a  church 
in  honour  of  the  holy  angels  and  the  three  shepherds, 
it  would  appear  that  those  who  went  that  happy  night  to 
Bethlehem  were  three  in  number.  And  when  that 
church  had  fallen,  on  its  site  remained  the  grotto  calk 
after  the  shepherds,  nearly  a  mile  distant  from  Beth- 
lehem. The  descent  into  it  is  by  a  few  steps,  and  tl 
memory  of  the  shepherds  is  still  venerated  there. 
Baronius,  on  the  authority  of  the  Venerable  Bede,  says 
that  there  was  a  church  or  oratory  there,  containing 
memorials  of  the  three  shepherds  who  had  knowledge 
the  Divine  Nativity.1  Tradition  has  not  preserved 
us  their  names,  but  between  the  grotto  of  the  shepherc 
and  Bethlehem  there  is  a  little  village  called  Bethsaur, 
that  is,  House  of  the  Dawn,  and  this  is  supposed  by  som( 
to  have  been  the  native  place  of  the  three  shepherds  wh( 
had  the  honour  of  beholding  and  adoring  the  Sun  ol 
Justice  on  His  first  rising,  and  being  now  numbei 
among  the  saints. 

There  is  no  reason  to  suppose  that  the  Holy  Family 
1  Annal.  arm.  i.  n.  14. 


immediately  removed  into  a  house  within  the  town. 
Tradition  is  adverse  to  any  such  idea;  neither  has  it 
been  adopted,  we  may  say,  by  the  Church,  which  always- 
supposes  the  Circumcision  and  the  visit  of  the  Magi  to 
have  taken  place  where  Jesus  was  born.  Joseph,  no 
doubt,  made  every  endeavour  to  render  their  humble 
abode  as  habitable  as  possible.  There  was,  however,  no- 
water  in  the  immediate  vicinity  of  the  cave ;  and  we  have 
already  alluded  to  the  tradition  of  a  miraculous  issue 
from  the  rock  of  a  spring  of  water,  for  the  supply  of  the 
Holy  Family,  and  that  the  Venerable  Bede  mentions  its- 
existence  in  his  day. 

We '  must  not  omit  to  add  that,  according  to  the 
authority  of  Tertullian,  it  was  at  the  coming  of  Christ 
that  the  waters  of  the  Probatic  Pool  in  Jerusalem 
acquired  their  curative  virtue.  When  Jesus  was  con- 
ceived, says  Genebrard,1  this  pool,  which  previously  had 
only  served  for  washing  the  sheep  intended  for  sacrifice, 
was  shaken  as  by  an  earthquake,  and  poured  forth  a- 
prodigious  quantity  of  water.  Then  the  Archangel 
Eaphael  began  to  make  his  descents  into  it,  which  ceased 
after  our  Lord's  Death.  Voices,  indeed,  were  heard  in 
the  air,  saying,  "  Let  us  depart  hence,  let  us  depart  ".2 
Near  the  Probatic  Pool  was  the  house  of  Joachim  and 
Anna  (as  has  already  been  observed),  where,  in  the  sixth 
century,  during  the  reign  of  Justinian,  a  beautiful  church 
was  erected.  Some  of  the  learned  even  say  that  the 
ground  on  which  was  the  pool  had  been  their  property, 
and,  consequently,  afterwards  that  of  Mary. 

When  the  eighth  day  after  her  delivery  had  come,  the 
time  had  arrived  for  the  circumcision  of  the  Infant.  It  was 

1  Chronic,  b.  i. 

2  Josephus,  in  his  Wars  of  the  Jews,  b.  vi.  c.  v.,  relates  how  from 
the  interior  of  the  Temple  on  the  day  of  Pentecost  voices  were 
heard  saying,  "  Let  us  depart  hence,  let  us  depart ".  They  pro- 
ceeded from  the  guardian-angels,  who  were  abandoning  the  Temple. 

254:  .       ST.    JOSEPH. 

prescribed  by  God  to  be  performed  on  that  day,  although 
it  might  be  postponed  for  any  serious  reason.  But  Mary 
and  Joseph  were  too  exact  observers  of  the  Law  to  wish 
to  d'elay  it  for  an  instant  beyond  the  appointed  time. 
Circumcision  might  be  performed  in  any  place,  even  in 
private  houses,  and  by  any  person,  the  father  or  mother 
of  the  child,  or  by  a  stranger ;  it  was  not  necessary  to 
have  recourse  to  the  priest.  Thus  we  read  that  Sephora, 
the  wife  of  Moses,  circumcised  her  son ; l  and  the  Apostle 
Paul  circumcised  Timothy.2  That  Jesus  was  in  no  way 
bound  by  this  law  of  circumcision  is  plain,  inasmuch  as 
that  rite  was  a  remedy  for  sin,  and  He  was  essentially 
holy,  nay,  Holiness  Itself,  and  had  come  to  cancel  sin  in 
others.  Nevertheless,  as  He  had  come,  not  to  destroy 
but  to  fulfil  the  Law,8  He  willed  to  submit  Himself  to 
this  painful  and  humiliating  rite  in  order  to  give  to  all 
a  sublime  example  of  obedience,  mortification,  humility, 
and  purity ;  and  He,  no  doubt,  interiorly  made  known  to 
His  Blessed  Mother  that  such  was  His  desire.  The 
Angelic  Doctor  points  out  further  reasons  for  which  Jesus 
willed  to  be  circumcised  like  others :  namely,  to  prove 
the  reality  of  His  Human  Nature  against  heretics,  who 
would  have  said  that  He  had  but  an  apparent,  shadowy 
body,  an  ethereal  body  brought  from  Heaven,  not  formed 
in  the  womb  of  the  Immaculate  Virgin ;  in  order  also  to 
mark  the  importance  of  the  divine  precept  given  to 
Abraham,  and  to  prove  that  He  was  truly  of  the  race  of 
Abraham,  thereby  removing  all  pretext  from  the  obstinate 
Jews  not  to  recognise  Him  as  the  true  Messias  promised 
to  Abraham,  and  demonstrating  that,  being  come  to  cancel 
the  sins  of  the  world,  He  did  not  refuse  to  submit  Him- 
self for  our  sakes  to  the  remedies  of  sin.4  St.  Leo  adds 
another  reason,  namely,  that  the  devil  should  not  dis- 
cover that  Jesus  was  the  looked-for  Messias ;  and  St. 

1  Exod.  iv.  25.  2  Acts  xvi.  3.  3  St.  Matthew  v.  17. 

4  Summa,  p.  iii.  q.  xxxvii.  a.  1. 


Ambrose,  in  order  that  the  Mosaic  law  should  be  buried 
with  honour;  finally,  St.  Augustine,  in  order  that  all 
carnal  concupiscence  should  be  circumcised,  and  Christian 
virginity  and  chastity  reign  in  us.  That  Jesus  was  cir- 
cumcised where  He  had  been  born,  we  have  the  authority 
of  St.  Epiphanius  :  "  Born  in  Bethlehem,"  he  says,  "  cir- 
cumcised in  the  cave,  presented  in  Jerusalem".1  This  is 
the  opinion  generally  embraced  by  the  Doctors  of  the 

But  who  was  the  minister  of  the  rite  ?  The  Evan- 
gelist is  silent  on  this  point.  Imagination  has  accord- 
ingly allowed  itself  full  scope,  and  painters  have  been 
pleased  to  introduce  into  their  representations  a  priest  in 
his  sacerdotal  vestments ;  but  we  have  no  authority  for 
supposing  that  any  priest  came  to  the  stable  of  Bethlehem 
to  circumcise  Jesus.  The  opinion  of  those  doctors  who 
believe  that  the  minister  of  the  circumcision  of  Jesus  was 
Joseph  appears  the  most  probable.  St.  Ephrem  the 
Syrian,  a  most  ancient  writer  and  contemporary  of  St. 
Basil,  one  who  was  well  acquainted  with  the  traditions  of 
his  native  land,  and  highly  esteemed  both  for  his  science 
and  his  piety,  says  expressly  that  it  was  Joseph  who  cir- 
cumcised Jesus.  Writing  in  confutation  of  those  heretics 
who  ascribed  to  our  Lord  a  phanta'stic  body,  he  says  :  "  If 
Jesus  Christ  had  not  true  flesh,  whom  did  Joseph  circum- 
cise ?  " 2  Thus  he  refers  to  it  as  to  an  unquestioned  fact.  St. 
Bernard,  Suarez,  and  many  others  also  believe  that  Joseph 
circumcised  Jesus,  because  he  who  circumcised  an  infant 
was  the  same  also  who  imposed  the  name ;  and  it  was 
Joseph  who  gave  Jesus  His  name.  This  opinion,  then,  has 
been  generally  adopted.  The  precept  of  circumcision  was 
addressed  to  the  heads  of  families;  it  was  the  office  of 
the  father,  unless  a  priest  took  his  place.  Joseph,  then, 
as  Isolano  says,  circumcised  Jesus  as  his  son.3  On  him 

1  Hceres,  xx.  2  Orat.  de  Transfigur.  Domini. 

3  De  Donis  S.  Joseph,  p.  iv.  c.  i. 

256  ST.    JOSEPH. 

we  may  believe  devolved  this  solemn  and  painful  duty. 
Jesus  was  circumcised  by  Joseph  on  Mary's  knees,  no 
other  eyes  beholding  the  first  drops  of  the  Precious  Blood 
flow  except  those  of  the  holy  angels,  and  no  other  ears 
save  theirs  hearing  the  wail  of  the  Divine  Infant.  In 
this  act  Joseph  accomplished  three  sacrifices  in  one  :  the 
sacrifice  of  Jesus,  who  began  the  great  work  of  our 
redemption  by  suffering  in  His  innocent  members ;  the 
sacrifice  of  Mary,  who  with  indescribable  sorrow,  but 
with  perfect  resignation,  offered  her  Son  to  the  Eternal 
Father,  and  held,  as  it  were,  the  victim  bound ;  and  the 
sacrifice  of  himself,  who  had  to  nerve  his  hand  to  perform 
an  act  so  painful  and  repugnant  to  his  tender  heart.  It 
was  an  act  of  heroic  obedience  and  fortitude  on  his  part, 
greater,  St.  Bernard  says,  than  was  that  of  Abraham  in 
sacrificing  his  son  Isaac ;  for  Joseph  loved  Jesus  incom- 
parably more  than  Abraham  did  his  son  Isaac,  and  well 
knew  the  difference  between  the  son  of  any  mortal  man. 
and  the  Son  of  the  Eternal  God.  Thus  the  knife  which 
cut  the  flesh  of  Jesus  wounded  the  heart  and  pierced  the 
soul  of  Joseph.  Here  there  was  no  angel  to  stay  his 
hand.  The  act  must  be  accomplished,  and  in  performing 
it  Joseph  was,  indeed,  more  than  a  martyr. 

Then,  too,  wTas  that  name  pronounced  over  the  Divine 
Infant  at  which  '"  every  knee,"  as  the  Apostle  tells  us, 
should  bow  of  those  who  are  in  heaven,  on  earth,  and 
under  the  earth;1  and  it  was  by  the  lips  of  Joseph  that 
it  was  pronounced.  St.  Luke  only  says  that  His  m 
was  called  Jesus,2  without  specifying  by  whom  ;  but  froi 
St.  Matthew  it  would  appear  that  it  was  Joseph ;  for  tl 
angel  had  said  to  him:  "Thou  shalt  call  His  name 
Jesus".3  It  was,  indeed,  no  little  glory  to  Joseph 
receive  an  embassage  from  Heaven  commissioning  him 
confer  this  name.  Jesus  is  the  Son  of  the  Etern* 

1  Phil.  ii.  10.  "  Chap.  ii.  21.  3  Chap.  i.  21. 



Father  ;  to  the  Eternal  Father,  therefore,  it  belonged  to 
impose  the  name ;  and  yet  He  commissioned  St.  Joseph 
to  exercise  that  right  in  His  place.  Joseph,  says  Isidoro 
Isolano,  is  the  Enos  of  the  New  Testament,  who  first 
began  to  invoke  the  Name  of  the  Lord.1  That  profound 
theologian,  Salmeron,  who  was  present  at  the  Council  of 
Trent,  did  not  scruple  to  say  that  in  this  sole  act  of  giving 
to  Jesus  His  name  was  declared  the  whole  paternal  office 
of  Joseph,  as  by  the  sole  act  of  feeding  the  sheep  of  Christ 
was  signified  the  full  power  and  jurisdiction  of  Peter  over 
the  Church.  Whence  Isidoro  Isolano  draws  the  con- 
clusion that  Joseph  in  God's  sight  is  superior  to  all  the 
other  saints,  because  no  other  was  exalted  to  so  high  a 

1  Gen.  iv.  26. 


(  258) 


TESUS  was  visited  and  adored  first  by  the  poor  and 
tl  simple,  the  despised  of  this  world,  which  loves 
grandeur  and  looked  for  a  Messias  who  was  to  come  in 
kingly  state.  Yet  He  was  not  to  want  the  homage  of 
the  rich,  the  noble,  and  the  great.  After  the  shepherds 
were  to  come  the  Kings.  The  Epiphany,  that  is,  the 
Manifestation  of  Christ  to  the  Gentiles  in  the  persons  of 
the  holy  Magi,  was  always  for  us,  the  descendants  of 
Gentiles,  a  very  joyous  and  consoling  mystery,  reminding 
us  of  our  vocation  to  the  true  faith.  It  has  been  called, 
indeed,  the  Christmas  Day  of  the  Gentiles.  All  the 
Fathers  in  their  homilies  to  the  people  spoke  of  it  with 
great  eloquence,  and  with  ardent  love  •  and  the  memory 
of  it  has  been  held  in  singular  reverence  throughout  the 
Christian  world.  At  Eome  especially  its  octave  is 
celebrated  with  great  pomp. 

St.  Matthew's  account  of  the  coming  of  the  Magi  is 
contained  in  a  few  simple  words  :  "When  Jesus,  there- 
fore, was  born  in  Bethlehem  of  Juda,  in  the  days  of  King 
Herod,  behold  there  came  wise  men  from  the  East  to 
Jerusalem,  saying,  Where  is  he  that  is  born  King  of  the 
Jews  ?  For  we  have  seen  his  star  in  the  East,  and  are 
come  to  adore  him."1 

The  question  naturally  arises  as  to  who  were  these  wise 
men,  or  Magi,  what  were  their  names,  whence  had  they 

1  Chap.  ii.  1,  2. 

ADORATION    OF    THE    MAGI.  259 

come,  and  what  had  been  the  motive  of  their  journey  ? 
It  has  been  the  commonly  received  opinion  that  they 
were  men  skilled  in  astronomical  science,  who  watched 
the  movement  of  the  stars;  and,  as  St.  Leo  says,  it  was 
not  possible  in  those  days  for  any  to  dedicate  themselves 
to  that  science  save  those  who  held  the  highest  rank  in 
society,  men  adorned  with  wisdom,  and  on  that  account 
rulers  amongst  their  people.  That  such  were  the  Magi 
there  can  be  no  doubt,  and  hence  they  are  called  indis- 
criminately wise  men  and  kings.  They  were,  in  fact,  so 
many  little  kings  in  the  different  regions  from  which 
they  came.  We  have  an  example  of  this  kind  of 
sovereignty  in  the  five  kings  whom  Abraham,  with  his 
three  hundred  and  eighteen  followers,  defeated,  rescuing 
Lot  from  their  hands.1  The  Magi  are,  accordingly, 
always  styled  kings  by  the  ancient  Fathers.  St.  Leo, 
St.  Augustine,  St.  Jerome,  St.  Hilarius,  St.  Cesarius,  and 
others,  all  give  them  this  title.  Tradition  is  invariable 
as  to  their  being  three  in  number ;  so  much  so,  that 
Cahnet  calls  this  opinion  the  common  and  universal 
opinion  of  the  Church.  We  may  see  this  truth  ex- 
pressed in  sacred  sculpture  and  pictures  prior  to  the 
time  of  St.  Leo,  where  the  Magi  represented  as  adoring 
the  Divine  Infant  are  always  three ;  and,  indeed,  we  see 
this  indicated  in  Scripture  itself  by  the  three  distinct 
gifts  which  they  offered — gold,  frankincense,  and  myrrh.2 

We  do  not  find  their  names  mentioned  in  the  early 
writers ;  but  they  must  have  been  handed  down  tradition- 
ally, since  the  Venerable  Bede  says  that  they  were  called 
Gaspar,  Baldassar,  and  Melchior.  The  Churches  of 
Cologne  and  of  Milan  have  constantly  venerated  them 
under  these  names  ;  and  it  is  under  these  names  that 
they  are  to  this  day  known  to  the  faithful. 

As  to  the  motive  cause  of  their  journey,  we  must  re- 
lember  how,  fifteen  centuries  before,  the  prophet  Balaam 
1  Gen.  xiv.  14-16.  2  St.  Matthew  ii.  11. 

260  ST.    JOSEPH. 

was  sent  for  by  King  Balak  to  curse  Israel,  and,  having 
mounted  a  hill,  whence  he  beheld  the  Hebrews  encamped 
in  the  desert,  seized  by  the  Spirit  of  God,  he  began  in- 
stead to  bless  them,  exclaiming,  "  How  beautiful  are  thy 
tabernacles,  0  Jacob,  and  thy  tents,  O  Israel !  .  .  .  I 
shall  see  him,  but  not  now  :  I  shall  behold  him,  but  not 
near.  A  star  shall  rise  out  of  Jacob,  and  a  sceptre  shall 
spring  up  from  Israel."1  The  holy  Magi  were  well 
acquainted  with  this  prediction,  which  had  been  pre- 
served in  their  country ;  and  since,  as  we  have  said,  they 
were  constant  observers  of  the  heavenly  bodies,  scarcely 
had  they  noted  on  the  night  of  the  Nativity  the  appear- 
ance of  a  new  star  of  extraordinary  splendour,  when  they 
believed  that  they  beheld  the  fulfilment  of  Balaam's 
prophecy,  and  that  this  luminary  announced  the  birth  of 
the  great  King.  This  observation,  and  the  conviction 
resulting  therefrom,  came  to  the  three  kings  separately 
at  the  same  time  ;  for  they  must  necessarily  have  been 
apart  from  each  other,  residing  in  the  several  districts 
which  they  ruled.  All  three,  however,  beholding  the 
star  simultaneously,  and  simultaneously  illuminated  by 
divine  grace,  understood  that  it  announced  the  birth  of 
the  promised  Eedeemer,  and  forthwith  set  out  to  follow 
its  guidance.  Thus,  we  may  believe  they  met  and  pro- 
secuted their  road  together,  with  their  respective  trains 
of  dromedaries,  and  with  their  eyes  fixed  aloft  upon  this 
wondrous  star,  which  was  not,  like  the  other  luminaries, 
in  the  distant  vault  of  heaven,  but  in  mid- air  above  their 
heads.2  We  cannot,  indeed,  conceive  of  it  otherwise,  if 
its  movement  was  to  act  as  a  guide  to  the  direction  they 
were  to  take. 

The  Evangelist  tells  us  that  these  three  wise  men 
came  from  the  East,  but  does  not  specify  their  country. 
Opinions  have  consequently  varied  on  this  subject ;  but 

r  Numbers  xxiv.  5,  17. 
2  St.  Thomas,  Summa,  p.  iii.  q.  xxxvi.  a.  7. 

ADORATION    OF   THE    MAGI.  261 

the  most  probable,  and  the  most  generally  received,  is 
that  they  came  from  Idumea  and  from  Arabia  Felix,  near 
to  which  are  Saba,  Madian,  and  Epha.  There  are 
several  reasons  in  its  favour,  and  it  has  the  authority  of 
many  ancient  Fathers — St.  Justin,  Tertullian,  St.  Cy- 
prian, St.  Epiphanius,  and  others.  Idumea  and  Arabia 
are  truly  eastward  as  regards  Bethlehem  ;  in  Arabia  was 
uttered  the  prophecy  of  Balaam,  called  hither  by  the 
King  of  Moab ;  and  Moab,  as  St.  Jerome  observes,  is  a 
province  of  Arabia  ;  it  would  retain,  therefore,  a  vivid 
remembrance  of  the  prediction.  Arabia  also  abounds  in 
gold,  frankincense,  and  myrrh,  the  gifts  offered  by  the 
Magi  as  the  products  of  their  country.  Here,  then, 
would  have  been  the  beginning  of  the  fulfilment  of 
prophecies  which  await  a  much  fuller  accomplishment  : 
"  The  kings  of  the  Arabians  and  of  Saba  shall  bring  gifts  ; 
to  him  shall  be  given  of  the  gold  of  Arabia".1  "The 
dromedaries  of  Madian  and  Epha,  all  they  from  Saba 
shall  come,  bringing  gold  and  frankincense."2 

That  the  kings  set  out  as  soon  as  they  saw  the  star, 
and  that  the  star  appeared  at  the  moment  of  Christ's 
birth,  may  be  gathered  from  the  words  of  the  Evangelist : 
"  When  Jesus  was  born  in  Bethlehem,  there  came  wise 
men  from  the  East".  He  does  not  say,  "in  those  days," 
allowing  a  certain  interval,  but  gives  us  to  understand 
that  these  holy  men  suffered  no  delay  to  intervene ;  they 
made  straight  for  Jerusalem,  the  capital  of  Judea,  where 
they  might  assuredly  expect  to  find  the  new-born  King  of 
the  Jews  whom  they  had  come  to  adore.  But,  as  they 
approached  Jerusalem,  the  star  suddenly  disappeared. 
The  miraculous  light  was  withdrawn ;  but  God  had  not 
left  them  deprived  of  guidance.  They  entered  the  city, 
enquiring,  "  Where  is  he  that  is  born  King  of  the  Jews, 
for  we  have  seen  His  star  in  the  East,  and  are  come  to 
adore  Him  "  ;  but  they  could  get  no  reply.  Instead  of 
1  Psalm  Ixxi.  10,  15.  2  Isaias  Ix.  6. 

262  ST.    JOSEPH. 

joy,  Jerusalem  was  filled  with  perturbation  and  dismay. 
The  one  absorbing  idea,  doubtless,  was  the  fear  of  the 
jealousy  of  the  tyrant  Herod,  when  this  report  of  a  com- 
petitor for  his  throne  should  reach  his  ears,  which  it 
presently  did :  "  and  King  Herod,  hearing  this,  was 
troubled,  and  all  Jerusalem  with  him".1  Miserable 
blindness  of  God's  own  people  !  These  Magi  came  from 
afar  to  seek  in  Judea  the  King,  the  Messias,  whom  the 
Jews  themselves  neither  sought  nor  recognised  in  their 
own  land.  Yet  they  had  at  hand  the  means  of  recognis- 
ing Him  had  they  desired  it,  and  could  even  point  the 
way  which  none  of  them  cared  to  follow. 

Herod,  concealing  his  fears,  assembled  the  chief  priests 
and  scribes,  and  asked  of  them  where  Christ  should  be 
born.  They  gave  him  the  true  reply,  quoting  the  pro- 
phecy of  Micheas.2  Herod  then  called  the  Magi  privately, 
and  made  minute  enquiries  of  them  as  to  the  time  when 
the  star  appeared,  and  bade  them,  when  they  had  found 
the  Infant,  to  return  and  tell  him,  that  he,  too,  might  go 
and  adore  Him.  When  the  kings  issued  from  Jerusalem, 
and  were  taking  the  road  to  Bethlehem,  the  star,  which 
had  disappeared  when  they  entered  the  city,  again  shone 
forth;  at  which,  the  Evangelist  says,  "they  rejoiced  with 
exceeding  great  joy".  The  spot  where  they  again  beheld 
it  was  at  a  well  about  half-way  between  Jerusalem  and 
Bethlehem,  which  is  still  called  the  Well  of  the  Star,  or 
the  Well  of  the  Three  Kings.  They  no  longer  needed  a 
guide,  for  the  star,  as  the  Evangelist  says,  "  went  before 
them,  until  it  came  and  stood  over  where  the  child  was".8 
Maria  d'Agreda  saw  it  in  vision  enter  the  grotto,  and  not 
disappear  until  it  had  rested  over  the  head  of  Jesus,  and 
had  dissolved  into  a  luminous  aureole  of  light  encoi 
passing  Him.  It  had  done  its  work,  and  had  broi 

1  St.  Matthew  ii.  3.  2  Micheas  v.  2. 

3  St.  Matthew  ii.  7-10. 

ADORATION    OF   THE    MAGI.  263 

the  holy  pilgrims  to  the  feet  of  the  Infant  God,  enthroned 
on  His  mother's  knee,  as  we  may  believe,  for  the  Evan- 
gelist says :  "  They  found  the  Child  with  Mary  His 
mother,"  not  meaning  thereby  to  exclude  the  presence  of 
Joseph,  but  simply  to  indicate  that  He  was  in  His 
mother's  arms  when  the  Magi,  who  were  divinely  illu- 
minated with  the  knowledge  of  the  mystery,  found  Him 
and  fell  down  before  Him,  adoring  Him  and  presenting 
their  gifts. 

Some  have  seen  in  St.  Luke's  employment  of  the  phrase 
"  entering  into  the  house  "  a  proof  that  the  Holy  Family 
had  removed  from  the  cave  of  the  Nativity  into  a  house 
in  the  city,  but  no  such  inference  can  be  drawn  from  the 
use  of  a  word  which  in  Scripture  we  find  indiscriminately 
applied  to  all  the  habitations  of  living  beings,  including 
even  those  of  birds  and  beasts.  Hence  in  the  Psalms  we 
find  the  "  highest  of  the  trees  of  the  field"  spoken  of  as 
the  "house  of  the  heron".1  But  the  authority  of  St. 
Jerome,  who  lived  in  the  holy  places,  and  is  the  surest 
witness  of  the  sacred  traditions  which  had  been  there 
preserved,  ought  to  be  alone  sufficient  to  remove  all 
doubt  on  the  question.  Writing  to  Marcella,  a  Eoman 
matron,  and  speaking  of  the  grotto  of  Bethlehem,  he 
says  :  "  Behold,  in  this  little  hole  in  the  earth  was  born 
the  Creator  of  the  Heavens ;  here  He  was  wrapped  in 
swaddling  clothes,  here  visited  by  the  shepherds,  here 
pointed  out  by  the  star,  here  adored  by  the  Magi".2 
St.  Augustine,  St.  John  Chrysostom,  not  to  speak  of 
other  Fathers  and  Doctors,  are  of  the  same  opinion, 
which  the  learned  Suarez  also  maintains  as  the  com- 
monest. Indeed,  the  Church  herself  sings  on  the  feast 
of  the  Epiphany,  and  through  the  whole  octave,  "To-day 
the  star  brought  the  Magi  to  the  crib".  The  devout 
feelings  of  the  faithful  certainly  echo  the  Church's 
tradition,  and  they  cannot  reckon  for  nothing.  Even 
1  Psalm  ciii.  18.  2  Epist.  xvii.  ad  Marcellam. 

264  ST.    JOSEPH, 

had  they  less  solid  warrant  than  they  can  lay  claim  to 
in  this  instance,  they  are,  as  we  may  say,  the  passive 
voice  of  the  Church.  For  the  God-Man,  the  King  of  the 
Universe,  to  be  born  in  what  St.  Jerome  forcibly  describes 
as  "a  hole  in  the  earth"  is,  we  know,  the  setting  forth 
of  a  great  mystery — the  mystery  of  His  humiliation  and 
abasement,  as  also  of  the  lesson  of  poverty  and  self- 
denial  which  He  came  to  teach,  and  by  which  He  was  to 
rebuke  and  condemn  the  pride  of  the  world.  Mary  and 
Joseph  knew  this  well.  Nor  can  we  suppose  that  for 
mere  accommodation's  sake  they  would  remove  from  their 
lowly  and  symbolic  "  hole  in  the  rock"  as  soon  as  the 
diminished  concourse  of  strangers  at  Bethlehem  rendered 
it  possible  to  find  shelter  in  an  ordinary  house.  This,  at 
least,  is  not  an  idea  which  recommends  itself  to  Christ- 
mas devotion.  It  clings  to  the  stable  and  the  crib. 
Here  our  Lord  received  the  adoration  of  the  shepherds, 
figures  of  His  chosen  people  :  this  is  certain ;  and  here, 
also,  we  may  well  feel  sure,  He  received  the  homage  of 
the  Kings  of  the  East,  representatives  of  the  Gentiles,  and 
not  in  a  hired  lodging.  St.  John  Chrysostom  speaks  of 
their  not  being  scandalised  in  that  they  found  nothing  of 
this  world's  greatness,  but  only  this  narrow  cabin,  mean 
crib,  and  a  poor  mother,  in  order  that  we  may  learn  that 
they  came,  not  to  honour  a  mere  man,  but  to  adore  a 
God  Incarnate,  the  Author  of  all  good.1 

Many  even  believe  that  the  Virgin  did  not  leave  the 
grotto  of  the  Nativity  until  the  forty  days  of  her  pre- 
scribed retirement  after  childbirth  were  accomplished, 
when  she  went  to  Jerusalem  to  present  her  Son  in  the 
Temple,  and  submit  herself  to  the  rite  of  purification.  Be 
this  as  it  may,  the  adoration  of  the  Magi  preceded  the 
Presentation  by  many  days,  and  we  may  therefore  confi- 
dently rest  on  the  Church's  tradition  that  on  the  sixth  of 
January,  that  is,  twelve  days  after  the  birth  of  the  Divine 
1  Horn.  viii.  in  Matthceum. 


Infant,  the  Magi  adored  Him  in  the  stable  of  Bethlehem 
where  He  was  born.  This  period  of  twelve  days  allows 
ample  time  for  the  journey  of  the  Kings  from  Arabia, 
including  their  brief  pause  at  Jerusalem.  It  is  true  that 
some  who  have  held  that  the  Kings  came  from  very  dis- 
tant regions  of  the  East,  which  would  have  rendered  it 
impossible  for  them  to  have  arrived  twelve  days  after  the 
Nativity,  have  referred  their  visit  to  a  later  period,  and 
have  supposed  it  to  take  place  a  year  and  twelve  days 
after  the  birth  of  Jesus.  But  this  opinion  seems  to 
involve  several  insurmountable  difficulties,  to  overcome 
which  as  many  gratuitous  suppositions  must  be  accepted, 
always  a  strong  objection  when  it  is  question  of  proving 
an  alleged  fact ;  and  it  must  be  confessed  that  it  seems 
to  jar  not  a  little  with  all  our  devotional  ideas,  and  to 
break  up,  so  to  say,  the  cluster  of  beautiful  mysteries 
which  gather  round  the  Birth  of  the  world's  Eedeemer 
and  adorn  our  Christmas  festivity,  when  we  love  to  gaze 
upon  Him  reigning  from  the  Crib,  as  hereafter  He  was  to 
reign  from  the  Cross.  To  the  two  only  reasons  which 
might  appear  to  militate  plausibly  in  its  favour,  we  shall 
briefly  allude  anon. 

As  it  especially  regards  the  honour  of  our  saint,  we 

must  not  pass  over  in  complete  silence  the  opinion  of 

some  that  Joseph  was  not  present  at  the  adoration  of  the 

Magi,  because  he  is  not  mentioned  as  being  so.     But 

surely  this  omission   cannot  be   thus   regarded.      How 

much  have  the  Evangelists  omitted  as  regards  Mary,  the 

Mother  of  Jesus ;  how  much  as  regards  Jesus  Himself  ! 

St.  Matthew  does  not  say  that  Joseph  was  not  present, 

and  it  seemed  scarcely  necessary  to  state  that  he  was 

present.     Where  should  he  be?  and  why  should  he  be 

j  absent  ?     There  was  no  need  to  conceal  or  put  him  out 

I  of  sight  from  fear  of  misapprehension  on  the  part  of  the 

j  Magi.      Their  very   gifts    prove    that    they  knew    the 

mystery  of  the  Incarnation,  and  that  it  was  a  God-Man 

266  ST.    JOSEPH. 

to  whom  they  had  come  to  do  honour.  Gold  they  offered 
as  to  their  king,  incense  to  their  God,  and  myrrh  to  His 
Sacred  Humanity,  which  He  had  assumed  to  Himself 
that  He  might  by  His  Passion  and  Death  redeem  a  fallen 
world.  The  Fathers  and  the  Doctors  of  the  Church  are 
all  agreed  that,  while  outwardly  guided  by  the  light  of 
•the  star,  they  were  inwardly  illuminated  by  the  Holy 
Spirit.  If  anything  is  to  be  concluded  from  the  silence 
of  the  Evangelist  concerning  St.  Joseph,  it  can  only  be  a 
tribute  to  his  humility.  We  may,  indeed,  imagine  that 
when  the  kings  entered  he  withdrew  into  the  background, 
for  Joseph  ever  sought  to  hide  himself,  that  the  divinity 
of  Jesus  and  the  glory  of  his  immaculate  Virgin  Spouse 
should  alone  be  manifested.  And  does  it  not  seem  as  if 
his  humble  desire  had  been  seconded  by  the  Evangelists? 
He  is  mentioned  by  them  all ;  it  could  not  be  otherwise  ; 
but  it  is  worthy  of  notice  that  not  a  syllable  of  his  is 
recorded  by  them.  Mysterious  silence,  symbol  and 
token  of  his  profound  humility !  But  tradition  has 
recorded  what  the  Evangelist  failed  to  mention ;  namely, 
his  presence  at  the  visit  of  the  Magi.  St.  John  Chrysos- 
tom,  speaking  of  the  sorrows  and  the  joys  of  St.  Joseph, 
says  that  the  grief  he  had  felt  upon  learning  that  the 
ferocious  Herod  had  been  troubled,  and  all  Jerusalem 
with  him,  on  hearing  of  the  birth  of  this  new  king  was 
succeeded  by  great  joy  on  beholding  the  star  coming  to 
rest  on  the  head  of  the  Divine  Infant,  and  the  adoration 
of  the  Magi.  In  all  the  sculptures  and  pictures  of  the 
early  times  of  the  Church  representing  this  mystery  we 
see  the  figure  of  our  saint,  a  little  behind  Mary,  leaning 
on  his  flowering  staff,  in  rapt  contemplation  of  the  glory 
of  the  Divine  Child ;  and  one  of  the  most  learned  and 
diligent  historians  of  all  that  appertains  to  the  life  and 
worship  of  St.  Joseph  boldly  asserts  that  it  must  be 
regarded  as  an  undoubted  truth  that  he  was  present 
when  the  Magi  came  to  visit  the  Infant  Jesus  and  offer  Hi 

ADOBATION    OF   THE    MAGI.  267 

their  mystical  gifts.1  After  adoring  their  God  and  King, 
and  paying  their  homage  to  His  august  Mother,  they 
turned,  no  doubt,  with  loving  reverence  to  Joseph,  honour- 
ing in  him  the  head  of  the  Holy  Family,  appointed  by  the 
Eternal  Father  to  represent  His  paternity;  and  to  his  care 
they  would  consign  the  precious  treasures  they  had  brought. 
We  are  unwilling  to  believe  that  these  holy  pilgrims, 
who  had  come  so  far,  and  for  so  high  an  object,  would 
have  returned  immediately  ;  and,  though  Scripture  only 
records  their  arrival,  adoration,  and  departure,  it  seems 
probable,  as  with  the  shepherds,  that  their  visit  to  the 
cave  was  not  a  solitary  one,  their  attendants,  with  the 
dromedaries,  finding  accommodation  in  Bethlehem,  where 
the  influx  of  strangers  had  now  ceased.  If  Holy  Church 
celebrates  her  greater  feasts  with  octaves,  and,  in  the 
case  of  the  greatest,  continues  her  Alleluias  much  longer, 
may  we  not  well  conceive  that  the  devotion  of  the  Magi, 
who  were  not  commemorating  a  feast,  but  keeping  it  in 
very  deed  at  its  glorious  origin,  was  extended  over  several 
days  ?  If  so,  their  delay  may  have  been  a  Providential 
dispensation  by  which  the  execution  of  Herod's  murder- 
ous purpose  was  suspended.  The  hypocritical  tyrant 
had  enjoined  them  to  return  to  him ;  he  would  wait, 
therefore,  until  he  had  received  from  them  certain  and 
accurate  information  as  to  where  to  find  his  intended 
victim,  and  would  probably  take  no  step  until  he  had 
dismissed  them  to  their  own  country,  ignorant  of  his 
design.  Time  may  thus  have  been  afforded  for  our 
Lady's  accomplishment  at  Jerusalem  of  .the  rite  of  puri- 
.fi cation.  Whether  any  misgivings  as  to  compliance  with 
Herod's  injunction  arose  in  the  minds  of  the  Magi  we  da 
not  know.  It  would  seem  that  they  could  hardly  be 
long  in  Judea  without  hearing  of  some  of  his  deeds  of 
violence  and  blood  ;  and  if,  as  St.  John  Chrysostom  says, 
it  was  one  of  St.  Joseph's  sorrows  to  learn  how  Herod  and 
1  Trombelli,  Vita  e  Culta  dc  S.  Giuseppe,  p.  i.  c.  xxii. 

268  ST.    JOSEPH. 

all  Jerusalem  with  him  were  troubled  at  hearing  of  the 
birth  of  the  King,  he  can  hardly  have  been  silent  on  the 
subject  when  it  became  question  of  the  Magi's  return. 
Be  this  as  it  may,  we  may  well  feel  assured  that  these 
holy  men,  so  remarkable  for  their  faithful  correspondence 
with  divine  light,  did  not  fail  to  seek  by  fervent  prayer  to 
learn  the  will  of  God  ;  and  that  will,  the  Gospel  tells  us, 
was  made  known  to  them  in  a  dream.  "  Having  received 
an  answer  in  sleep  that  they  should  not  return  to  Herod, 
they  went  back  another  way  into  their  own  country."1 

We  hear  no  more  in  Scripture  of  the  Magi.  Whether 
they  subsequently  heard  of  the  preaching  of  Jesus  and 
the  wonders  He  wrought  we  are  ignorant ;  but  of  this  we 
may  be  certain,  that,  if  God  had  called  them  again,  they 
would  have  revisited  Judea  as  promptly  as  before,  to 
confess  and  adore  Him.  Certain  it  is  that  their  faith  did 
not  remain  idle  in  them.  They  performed  the  Apostolic 
work  of  preparing  their  people  for  embracing  the  truth  ; 
and,  after  the  Ascension  of  our  Lord,  the  Apostle 
Thomas,  we  are  told,  ordained  them  bishops  in  their 
own  country,  where  they  co-operated  admirably  in  the 
extension  of  the  Church,  making  a  holy  end,  full  of  years 
and  of  merits.  The  Bollandists  say  that  Melchior  died 
at  the  age  of  a  hundred  and  sixteen,  Gaspar  at  the  age  of  a 
hundred  and  nine,  and  Baldassar  at  that  of  a  hundred 
and  twelve,  about  the  middle  of  the  first  century.  From 
Arabia,  where  they  died,  St.  Helen,  mother  of  Constantine, 
transported  their  relics  to  Constantinople;  from  thence 
they  were  transferred,  Constantine  still  reigning,  to  Milan, 
where  they  were  deposited  in  the  church  of  St.  Eustorgius. 
Finally,  in  the  year  1162,  Frederic  Barbarossa,  having 
taken  and  spoiled  Milan,  gave  them  to  Eaynold,  Archbishop 
of  Cologne,  who  placed  them  in  the  church  of  St.  Peter, 
where  to  this  day  they  still  repose,  and  receive,  as  fc 
centuries  they  have  done,  the  veneration  of  the  faithful. 
1  St.  Matthew  ii.  12. 

(  269  ) 



THE  Eternal  Word,  when  born  into  the  world,  willed 
to  conceal  the  splendours  of  His  Divinity  under  His 
human  nature,  but  not  to  such  a  degree  as  to  prevent 
some  flashes  of  its  glory  from  illuminating  His  nativity 
and  the  first  days  of  Hi's  life  on  earth,  so  that  those  who 
did  not  recognise  Him  as  their  God  would  be  inexcusable. 
In  His  lowly  crib  He  received  the  conjoined  testimony  of 
Heaven  and  of  earth.  Angels  and  men  came  to  adore 
Him ;  the  stars  of  the  firmament  and  the  beasts  of  the 
field  gave  witness  to  Him  as  the  Creator  and  Lord  of  all 
things.  The  first  few  Gospel  pages  which  speak  of  His. 
infancy  are  a  succession  of  contrasts  or  .alternations 
between  abasement  and  glorification.  No  sooner  have 
the  Kings  of  the  East  and  their  trains  departed  than  we 
find  Mary  and  Joseph  making  preparations  for  her,  the 
Immaculate,  to  go  to  Jerusalem  to  receive  the  rite  of 
purification  after  childbirth,  designed  •  for  the  fallen 
daughters  of  Eve,  who  conceive  in  sin  and  bring  forth  in 
sorrow,  whereas  Mary's  divine  conception  and  joyous 
delivery  had  only  enhanced  the  glory  of  her  pure  and 
spotless  nature.  Our  Blessed  Lady,  however,  would 
claim  no  exemption^  but  would  imitate  her  Son,  who  had 
submitted  to  the  law  of  circumcision  ordained  for  sinners. 
By  so  doing  she  also  gave  an  example  of  obedience  to  the 
established  law  of  God ;  she  paid  honour  to  it,  and  re- 
moved all  occasion  of  scandal.  This  rite  of  purification 
was  to  be  accompanied  by  the  oblation  and  redemption, 

270  ST.    JOSEPH. 

for  a  few  sides,1  of  her  First-Born  Son,2  of  Him  who  had 
come  to  redeem  the  whole  world  by  the  priceless  offering 
of  His  own  Precious  Blood.  It  might  have  been  imagined 
that  the  gifts  of  the  Magi  would  have  enabled  Joseph  and 
Mary  to  present  the  offering  of  the  rich,  but  they  were 
not  minded  to  apply  them  to  this  purpose.  They  made 
the  offering  of  the  poor,  the  two  turtle-doves,  and  it  is 
supposed  that  they  divided  what  the  Kings  had  brought 
between  their  indigent  neighbours  and  the  Temple  of  God 
at  Jerusalem. 

The  morning  of  the  fortieth  day  saw  them  preparing  to 
leave  the  grotto,  which  had  become  a  place  sacred  in 
their  eyes.  Possibly  God  may  have  favoured  them  with 
a,  divine  prescience  that,  having  been  consecrated  by  the 
presence  of  the  Incarnate  Word,  and  sanctified  by  so 
many  heavenly  mysteries,  it  was  never  to  fall  again  into 
a  like  neglect,  but,  tended  by  the  piety  of  the  faithful, 
ivas  afterwards  to  see  a  sanctuary  raised  over  it  which 
was  to  become  a  centre  of  pilgrimage  to  the  whole 
Christian  world.  Mary  and  Joseph,  then,  went  forth, 
Mary  bearing  in  her  arms  her  Divine  Son,  and  Joseph 
leading  the  ass  laden  with  the  few  things  which  they 
carried  with  them,  including  the  gifts  for  the  Temple. 
As  they  cannot  have  been  ignorant  that  they  had  become 
objects  of  search  to  the  suspicious  Herod,  there  was  the 
more  merit  in  this  act  of  obedience  to  the  Law,  as  fear 
might  have  suggested  a  speedy  return  into  Galilee.  But 
Mary  and  her  holy  spouse  never  acted  on  the  impulse  of 
feeling  or  passion.  They  followed  God's  guidance,  aru 

1  Numb.  iii.  47. 

2  The  expression  "first-born"  among  the  Hebrews,  it  net 
scarcely  be  observed,  did  not  imply  that  there  were  subsequei 
children.  When  all  the  first-born  were  smitten  in  Egypt  no  one 
imagines  that  such  as  were  the  only  sons  of  their  parents  were 
exempted.  There  is  a  sense,  however,  in  which  Jesus  is  called, 
and  is  indeed,  "the  first-born  among  many  brethren"  (Rom. 
viii.  29).  Of  these  He,  on  the  Cross,  made  Mary  the  mother,  in  the 
person  of  St.  John,  the  beloved  disciple. 


committed  the  consequences  to  Him.  Joseph,  to  whomr 
it  appertained  to  direct  all  the  movements  of  the  Holy 
Family,  was  himself  a  docile  instrument  in  God's  hands. 
That  some  human  fears  for  the  safety  of  his  precious 
charge  must  at  times  have  pressed  painfully  on  his 
tender  heart  we  may  well  suppose,  without  detracting 
from  his  merit ;  nay,  they  even  added  to  it.  He  would, 
doubtless,  also  in  the  same  human  way,  derive  some 
consolation  from  the  reflection  that,  now  that  the  Kings 
had  returned  without  communicating  to  Herod  the  in- 
formation he  required,  the  very  poverty  and  obscurity  of 
himself  and  his  blessed  spouse  would  be  a  shield  to  her 
and  to  the  Child,  little  imagining  the  sweeping  massacre 
which  the  cruel  tyrant  would  adopt  to  make  sure  of  the 
new-born  King  not  escaping  destruction.  But  his  great 
consolation  and  the  never-failing  source  of  his  trust  was 
the  protecting  arm  of  Providence. 

Mary,  out  of  reverence  to  her  Divine  Son,  whom  she 
was  carrying  to  present  as  an  oblation  to  the  Eternal 
Father,  wished  to  make  the  journey  on  foot,  and  even  (so 
says  Maria  d'Agreda)  to  perform  it  barefoot ;  but  this 
Joseph  would  not  permit,  and  she  obeyed  him  without 
remonstrance.  Wearied  by  the  way,  when  they  had 
passed  the  Well  of  the  Star,  or  of  the  Three  Kings, 
Joseph  besought  her  to  rest  herself  under  the  friendly 
shade  of  a  lordly  terebinth,  or  turpentine-tree.  Tradition 
has  faithfully  preserved  this  fact,  and  a  beautiful  legend 
attaches  to  it,  that  the  tree  bent  its  branches  at  the  ap- 
proach of  Jesus  to  honour  in  Him  the  God  of  Nature. 
Pilgrims,  from  the  earliest  ages  of  the  Church,  used  devoutly 
to  kiss  it,  in  memory  of  its  having  sheltered  the  Mother 
and  the  Divine  Child ; 1  and  in  that  tree  we  may  see  a 

1  For  sixteen  centuries  this  tree  under  which  Mary  rested  was 
believed  to  have  a  hidden  virtue  in  it,  and  to  have  effected  a 
multitude  of  cures.  (Martorelli,  Terra  Santa,  cap.  vii.  p.  155.)  The 
tree  was  destroyed  in  the  seventeenth  century,  but  the  memory 
of  the  spot  where  it  stood  has  been  preserved. 

272  ST,    JOSEPH. 

figure  both  of  Jesus  and  of  Mary,  for  Wisdom,  in  Ecclesi- 
asticus,  says,  "  I  have  stretched  out  rny  branches  as  the 
turpentine-tree,  and  my  branches  are  of  honour  and 
grace  "-1  After  resting  a  while,  they  resumed  their  way. 
This  journey  from  Bethlehem  to  the  Holy  City  was 
the  most  solemn  and  sublime  procession  which  earth 
had  ever  beheld,  or  which  had  ever  entered  the  gates  of 
the  Temple,  poor  and  mean  as  was  its  outward  appear- 
ance, for  it  was  accompanied  invisibly  by  troops  of 
angels,  as  a  guard  of  honour ;  and  how  great  is  the 
splendour  of  these  glorious  princes  of  Heaven  may  be 
imagined  when  we  remember  that  the  sight  of  one  alone, 
sitting  on  the  stone  at  Christ's  monument,  made  the 
Eoman  soldiers  who  watched  it  become  as  dead  men  for 
fear.  His  countenance,  St.  Matthew  tells  us,  was  like 
lightning,  and  his  raiment  .of  dazzling  whiteness.2  What, 
then,  must  have  been  the  refulgence  of  thousands  of  these 
exalted  beings  !  But,  if  their  majesty  was  great,  words 
fail  when  we  consider  the  unspeakable  grandeur  of  which 
they  were  only  the  attendants  :  the  King  of  everlasting 
ages,  His  mother  the  Queen  of  angels  and  of  men,  and 
her  holy  spouse  who  was  honoured  with  the  title  and 
office  of  father  to  the  Son  of  God  Himself.  What  Holy 
Church  thinks  of  this  august  procession, — and  where  can 
we  find  a  safer  guide  than  the  spirit  of  our  mother,  the 
Church,  embodied  in  her  ritual, — is  shown  by  the  pro- 
cession she  organises  to  solemnise  what  we  call  Candle- 
mas Day,  once  a  day  of  obligation  when  England  was- 
Catholic — the  thurifer  going  before  with  incense  burning, 
the  cross  borne  aloft  by  the  sub-deacon  following,  then  the 
clergy  in  their  order,  and  the  faithful — all,  clergy,  acolytes, 
and  people,  carrying  lighted  candles  which  have  beei 
previously  blessed  by  the  celebrant.  And  let  us  listen  t 
the  beautiful  antiphon  which  is  intoned  as  soon  as  t' 
solemn  words,  "  Procedamus  in  pace,"  have  been  pr< 
1  Chap.  xxiv.  22.  2  Chap,  xxviii.  3,  4. 


nounced  by  the  deacon,  and  the  response,  "  In  nomine 
Christi,"  has  been  given  by  the  choir:  "  Adorna  thala- 
mum  tuum,  Sion,  et  suscipe  Eegem  Christum ;  amplectere 
Mariam,  quse  est  celestis  porta  ;  ipsa  enim  portat  Kegem 
gloriae  novi  luminis ;  subsistit  Virgo,  adducens  manibus 
Filium  ante  luciferum  genitum,  quern  accipiens  Simeon 
in  ulnis  suis,  praedicavit  populis  Dominum  esse  vitse  et 
mortis,  et  Salvatorem  mundi  " — "  Adorn  thy  chamber,  O 
Sion,  and  receive  Christ  the  King ;  embrace  Mary,  who 
is  the  celestial  gate ;  for  she  bears  the  glorious  King  of 
the  new  light ;  remaining  ever  a  Virgin,  she  brings  in 
her  hands  the  Son  begotten  before  the  day-star,  whom 
Simeon,  receiving  into  his  arms,  proclaimed  to  the  people 
to  be  the  Lord  of  life  and  death,  and  Saviour  of  the 
world  ". 

Among  the  devout  Israelites  who  were  waiting  at  that 
time  for  the  Redeemer's  advent  was  a  holy  old  man 
named  Simeon.  His  longing  desire  and  heart's  prayer 
was  that  he  should  behold  that  day.  His  prayer  had 
been  granted,  and  he  had  received  an  answer  from  the 
Holy  Ghost  that  "  he  should  not  see  death  before  he  had 
seen  the  Christ  of  the  Lord  ".  Simeon  was  not  a  priest, 
but  he  was  truly  a  prophet.  "  The  Holy  Ghost  was  in 
him  "  are  the  expressive  words  of  Scripture  ; 1  "in  him," 
making  his  soul  a  palace  of  light,  and  acting  as  a  lamp 
to  direct  his  ways.  "  Thy  word,"  says  David,  "is  a 
lamp  to  my  feet  and  a  light  to  my  paths. " 2  Of  such  a 
man  no  act  is  fortuitous  or  meaningless  ;  he  "  walks  at 
large,"  with  the  freedom  of  those  who  have  escaped  from 
the  tyranny  of  self,  because  he  has  sought  God's  com- 
mandments, not  his  own  will  and  pleasure.  God  has 
become  his  inward  guide ;  and  so  the  Gospel  says  that 
Simeon  "came  by  the  Spirit  into  the  Temple".  This 
whole  Psalm,  indeed,  admirably  describes  the  mind  of 
such  a  man  as  Simeon,  who  has  taken  the  testimonies  of 
1  St.  Luke  ii.  25-27.  2  Psalm  cxviii.  105. 


274  ST.    JOSEPH. 

the  Lord  as  an  inheritance  for  ever,  because  they  are  the 
joy  of  his  heart,  and  whose  soul  has  fainted  after  His 
salvation.1  The  law  which  the  Virgin  came  to  fulfil  pre- 
scribed three  things  :  (1)  the  purification  of  the  mother ; 

(2)  the  offering  and  redemption  of    the  first-born  son; 

(3)  the  oblation  of  a  lamb  by  the  rich,  and  of  two  turtle- 
doves or  two  young  pigeons  by  the  poor.     At  this  rite 
the  husband  must  be  present  also,  joining  in  the  offering. 
When,  therefore,  as  the  Evangelist  says,   "  His  parents 
brought  in  the  Child  Jesus  to  do  for  Him  according  to 
the  custom  of  the  Law,"  2  Simeon  at  once  knew  Him  by 
that  inward  revelation  which  brings  .assurance  with  it ; 
not  as  the  shepherds  knew  Him,,  from  the  miraculous 
vision  of  Angels  and  from  hearing  their   heavenly  an- 
nouncement, but  by  the  direct  voice  of  the  Spirit  of  God, 
who  was  ever  abiding  in  him ;  and  so  "he  took  Him 
into  his  arms  and  blessed  God,"  and  poured  forth  from 
the   depth   of    his   soul    that    canticle    of    the   "  Nunc 
dimittis  "  which  we  know  so  well. 

St.  Luke  says:  "  His  father  and  mother  wondered  at 
these  things  which  were  spoken  concerning  Him  "  ;8  not 
that  they  did  not  know  these  high  mysteries  already,  but 
to  hear  the  great  works  of  God  published  is  ever  to  hear  and 
know  them  afresh ;  and  then  the  intuitive  knowledge  which 
God  had  given  to  this  holy  man,  without  the  intervention 
of  any  sensible  prodigy,  was  matter  for  deep  and  devout 
admiration ;  moreover,  Simeon  was  the  first  to  proclaim 
publicly'  that  the  Eedeemer  was  come,  come  to  His 
Temple,  as  the  prophet  Aggeas4  had  foretold,  rendering 
its  glory  greater  than  that  of  the  first.  The  adoring  of 
the  shepherds  and  that  of  the  Kings  of  the  East  had 

^  1  Psalm  cxviii.  45,  81,  111.  The  Arabs  give  Simeon  the'  title  of 
Siddik  (he  who  verifies),  because  he  bore  witness  to  the  coming 
of  the  true  Messias  in  the  person  of  Jesus,  the  Son  of  Mary.— 
D'Herbelet,  Bibliofhkque  Orientate,  torn.  iii.  p.  266. 

2  St.  Luke  ii.  27.  3  Chap.  ii.  33.  4  Aggeas  ii.  8,  10. 


taken  place  in  a  secluded  cave  of  the  earth,  but  the  voice 
which  proclaimed  the  Child  "a  light  to  the  revelation  of 
the  Gentiles  and  the  glory  of  His  people  Israel,"1  sounded 
in  the  courts  of  the  Lord  and  before  His  holy  altar.  If 
few  heard,  it  was  because  few  were  there,  and  still  fewer 
attended  to  the  words  spoken  to  a  poor  mother  and  her 
babe.  Simeon  blessed  both  Mary  and  Joseph,  but  to 
Mary  alone  did  he  speak  of  the  sign  of  contradiction 
which  her  Child  was  to  become,  and  of  the  sword  which 
was  to  pierce  her  soul,2  for  Joseph  was  not  to  live  to 
behold  the  Passion  and  Death  of  Jesus.  When,  indeed, 
the  lance  of  the  centurion  pierced  His  side  and  penetrated 
the  agonised  soul  of  the  mother,  Joseph  was  with  Him  in 
the  Limbo  of  the  Fathers,  which  had  been  transformed 
into  Paradise  by  His  presence.  Nevertheless,  we  may 
be  certain  that  the  holy  Patriarch  deeply  shared  her 
sorrow  when  this  prophecy,  which,  no  doubt,  brought  into 
still  more  vivid  light  the  prescience  she  already  had  of 
her  Son's  sufferings,  was  addressed  to  her,  a  prescience 
which  was  never  to  leave  her,  but  amidst  all  the  joys  of 
her  maternity  was  to  make  her  by  anticipation  the 
Mother  of  Dolours.  Simeon  predicted  that  Jesus  was 
11  set  for  the  fall  and  for  the  resurrection  of  many  ";  not 
that  He  would  be  the  efficient,  direct,  and  positive  cause 
of  the  ruin  of  the  former,  as  He  is  of  the  salvation  of  the 
latter,  but  only  the  incidental,  indirect,  and  negative 
cause ;  inasmuch  as,  in  order  not  to  perish,  they  must 
believe  in  Jesus,  love  Jesus,  obey  Jesus,  and  they  would 
obstinately  refuse  to  believe  in  Him,  love  Him,  and  obey 
Him,  and  would  thus  be  lost  eternally.  In  the  same 
manner  would  He  be  a  sign  of  contradiction,  in  that 
many  would  adore  Him  as  God,  bless  and  serve  Him 
faithfully,  and  many  would  deny  Him  and  blaspheme 
Him,  and  instead  of  serving  Him  would  prefer  to  serve 
the  devil,  their  malicious  enemy.  This  sad  presage  em- 
1  St.  Luke  ii.  32.  2  Ibid.  w.  34,  35. 

276  ST.    JOSEPH. 

bittered  also  the  soul  of  Mary,  and  was  to  her  a  continual 
martyrdom,  which  the  tender  soul  of  Joseph  shared, 
though  his  eyes  were  to  be  closed  in  death  before  their 
accomplishment  began  to  manifest  itself  in  the  hatred 
and  hostility  of  the  Jews  against  our  Lord.  Indeed,  it 
must  have  been  a  source  of  additional  poignant  grief  to 
his  generous  and  loving  heart  to  know — as  he  must  have 
known  long  before  his  death — that  when  this  prophecy 
was  verified  he,  the  protector  of  Jesus  and  Mary,  would 
not  be  there  to  defend  and  console  them. 

To  temper  a  little  the  pain  inflicted  on  the  hearts  of 
Mary  and  Joseph  by  Simeon's  prophecy,  God  directed  the 
steps  of  an  ancient  and  holy  woman  into  the  Temple. 
It  was  Anna  the  Prophetess,  the  daughter  of  Phanuel, 
of  the  tribe  of  Aser.  After  the  death  of  her  husband, 
with  whom  she  had  lived  seven  years,  she  had  made  the 
Temple  her  continual  abode,  serving  God  with  fastings 
and  prayers  night  and  day.1  Mary  must  have  been  well 
known  to  her ;  indeed,  it  is  supposed  that  this  venerable 
woman  had  been  the  instructor  and  trainer  of  the  young 
maidens  brought  up  within  the  precincts  of  God's  House. 
Coming  in  at  the  moment  when  Simeon  was  restoring  the 
Divine  Babe  to  His  mother,  she  also  was  ravished  in 
spirit  and  gave  testimony  to  Him  as  the  true  Messias. 
Nor  was  her  testimony  limited  to  that  moment,  for  we 
are  told  that  she  spoke  of  Him  to  all  who  were  looking 
for  the  redemption  of  Israel.  But  what  of  the  priests  of 
the  Lord  ?  As  the  humble  Virgin  advanced  with  her 
Infant  in  her  arms  to  perform  the  three  acts  prescribed 
by  the  Law,  was  there  not  one  of  them  to  behold  in  spirit 
the  immense  glory  with  which  the  presence  of  the  Lord 
o£  all,  the  Orient  from  on  high,  the  Desired  of  all  nations, 
was  filling  the  Temple  ?  We  do  not  hear  of  one.  The 
Virgin  placed  herself  on  her  knees,  having  given  tl 
Divine  Babe  to  Joseph.  Most  humble  in  her  aspect 
1  St.  Luke  ii.  36,  37. 


with  eyes  modestly  cast  down,  her  head  inclined  to- 
wards the  ground,  and  her  hands  joined  over  her  bosom, 
she  awaited  the  coming  of  the  priest.  He  came,  prayed 
over  her;  and  thus  did  she  seem  to  be  purified  who  was 
herself  brighter  than  the  sun,  fairer  than  the  moon,  and 
purer  than  the  stars  of  heaven. 

The  offering  and  redemption  of  the  Child  followed.  As 
the  inner  court  of  the  temple  was  interdicted  to  women, 
Mary  remained  kneeling,  and  in  her  heart  and  mind 
accompanying  the  solemn  oblation  made  of  her  Divine 
Son  to  the  Eternal  Father,  while  Joseph,  bearing  Him  in 
his  arms,  went  into  the  Court  of  the  Priests  to  present 
Him.  Jesus,  High- Priest  according  to  the  order  of 
Melchisedech,  enters  into  His  Temple,  and  the  band  of 
Levites  who  minister  there  do  not  hasten  to  receive  Him 
with  reverence,  do  not  surround  Him  with  their  homage, 
do  not  honour  Him  even  by  a  look.  They  had  no  eyes 
to  see,  so  He  hid  His  Face  from  them.  The  unworthiness 
of  the  Levitical  priesthood  God  had  already  declared 
by  the  mouth  of  the  prophet  Malachias :  "  The  son 
honoureth  the  father,  and  the  servant  his  master :  if, 
then,  I  be  a  father,  where  is  My  honour  ?  and  if  I  be  a 
master,  where  is  My  fear  ?  " 1  And  by  the  same  prophet  He 
had  exposed  the  cause  of  their  blindness  and  irreverence, 
namely,  their  covetousness,  their  pride,  and  their  love  of 
worldly  things.  Therefore  he  had  declared  to  those 
priests,  who  despised  His  name,  that  He  had  no  pleasure 
in  them,  and  would  receive  no  gifts  at  their  hands.2  More 

1  Chag.  i.  6. 

2  Malachias  i.  7,  10.  The  luxury  and  avarice  of  the  chief  priests 
of  Jerusalem  was  past  belief.  The  pontiffs  sent  people  into  the 
country  to  take  the  tithes  in  granaries,  and  appropriate  them  to 
themselves,  which  left  the  inferior  priests  to  die  of  hunger.  At  the 
least  remonstrance,  the  miserable  Levites  were  accused  of  revolt 
and  insubordination,  and  delivered  up  to  the  Romans.  The 
Governor  Felix  alone  cast  forty  of  them  into  prison,  out  of  com- 
plaisance to  the  doctors  and  princes  of  the  synagogue. — Life  of 
\us,  quoted  in  Orsini's  History  of  the  Blessed  Virgin,  chap.  xiii. 

278  ST.    JOSEPH. 

than  thirty  years  later,  with  His  own  divine  lips,  He  was 
to  reprove  them  for  these  very  vices,  and  announce  to 
them  their  approaching  rejection  :  "  The  kingdom  of 
God  shall  he  taken  from  you,  and  given  to  a  nation 
bringing  forth  the  fruits  thereof  "*• 

A  priest  drew  nigh  to  take  the  Divine  Child  and  offer 
Him  to  the  Lord  ;  and  never  had  oblation  so  acceptable 
been  made  to  God,  but,  in  truth,  it  was  Jesus,  Priest  and 
Victim,  who,  through  the  Spirit2  and  by  the  hands  of 
Mary  and  Joseph,  made  an  unspotted  offering  of  Himself 
to  His  Eternal  Father.  Joseph  then  paid  the  small  sum 
of  money  required,  to  redeem  Him  who  was  the, 
Eedeemer  of  all,8  and  took  back  the  Divine  Victim  to 
feed  and  tend  Him,  and  rear  Him  up  to  complete  the 
sacrifice  on  Calvary.  All  that  remained  now  to  perform 
was  to  offer  the  doves,  the  one  as  a  holocaust,  the  other 
as  a  sin-offering.  These  innocent  creatures  Joseph  con- 
signs to  the  priest,  who  ascends  with  them  the  steps  of 
the  Altar  of  Holocausts  to  make  the  oblation.  Mary  had 
accompanied  in  spirit  all  these  solemn  acts  of  religion ; 
but  within  this  Court  of  the  Priests  no  sign  occurred  such 
as  those  which  had  just  before  marked  the  arrival  of  the 
Holy  Family  at  their  entrance  into  the  Temple.  Among 
the  priests  not  a  few  were  courtier-like  partisans  of 
Herod;  possibly  there  might  be  some  who  were  here- 
after to  sit  in  the  Sanhedrim  which  was  to  pronounce 
Jesus  guilty  of  death.  Such  men  were  not  worthy  to 
behold  a  ray  of  the  glory  of  the  Lord. 

All  the  ceremonies  being  completed,  Joseph  returned 
to  the  outer  court,  and  restored  the  Divine  Infant  to  His 
mother's  arms.  Then  they  departed.  If  it  be  true  that 
a  portion  of  the  offerings  of  the  Magi  had  been  set  apart 

1  St.  Matthew  xxi.  43.  2  Heb.  ix.  14. 

3  For  this  reason  the  Doctors  of  the  Church  agree  in  giving 
Joseph,  in  a  certain  sense,  the  title  of  redeemer  of  the  Redeerm 
— Cartagena,  lib.  xviii.  Horn.  xiv. 


by  them  as  a  gift  for  the  Temple,  Joseph  will  have  taken 
it  there  alone,  secretly  and  silently,  so  as  to  attract  no 
notice.  It  would  have  been  an  inconsistency  to  allow  it 
to  accompany  the  public  offering  of  the  poor  which  they 
made  ;  such  a  display  also  would  not  have  harmonised 
with  the  character  which  marks  all  the  acts  of  Mary  and 
Joseph,  namely,  a  profound  and  retiring  humility.  It 
would,  moreover,  have  attracted  to  them  an  attention  which 
must  have  been  perilous  under  present  circumstances. 
The  Virgin  most  prudent  and  the  discreet  and  thoughtful 
Joseph,  her  spouse,  were  sure  to  shun  carefully  any  such 
risk.  They  came  to  Jerusalem  in  obedience  to  an 
ordinance  of  God ;  in  order  to  perform  God's  will  natural 
fears  must  be  laid  aside,  but  when  all  had  been  accom- 
plished, the  safety  of  the  Divine  Infant  must  have  been 
their  one  leading  thought.  It  is  scarcely  probable,  there- 
fore, that  they  remained  in  the  neighbourhood  of  the 
jealous  tyrant  longer  than  was  necessary  to  complete  the 
religious  rite  which  had  brought  them  to  Jerusalem,  but 
they  will  have  at  once  turned  their  minds,  if  not  their 
steps,  towards  the  homeward  journey. 

(  280  ) 


BEFOEE   proceeding  farther,  it  will  be  weir  to  give 
some  attention  to  the  two  chief  reasons  adduced  by 
those  who  suppose  that  the  visit  of  the  Magi  and  the 
flight  into  Egypt  took  place  a  year  later  than  is  com- 
monly believed. 

The  first  is  the  silence  of  St.  Luke,  who,  after  relating 
all  that   occurred  in  connection  with  the   Purification, 
says  :  "  And  after  they  had  performed  all  things  accord- 
ing to  the  Law  of  the  Lord,  they  returned  into  Galilee, 
to  their  city  Nazareth"1 — omitting  all  mention  of  the 
flight  into  Egypt  and  of  the  massacre  of  the  Innocents 
We   should,  therefore   (they  contend),  gather  from 
words  that  Mary  and  Joseph  returned  at  once  to  theii 
home  at  Nazareth,  and  that  these  events  all  occurred  at 
a  later  date.     But,  in  the  first  place,  those  who  attacl 
importance  to  this  argument  seem  not  to  perceive  that  it 
would  prove  too  much  ;  it  oversteps  its  object,  and,  ii 
doing  so,  neutralises  all  its  force.     That  St.  Luke  shouk 
omit  the  account  of  the  flight  into  Egypt,  which  is  givei 
by  St.  Matthew,  who  on  his  part  never  alludes  to  the 
Purification,  is  intelligible;  but  that  his  history  of  the 
Infancy  should  be  irreconcilable  with  it,  and  leave  no 
place  for  it,  is  not  intelligible,  for  this  Evangelist  goes  on 
to  say :  "  And  the  Child  grew,  and  waxed  strong,  full 
wisdom ;  and  the  grace  of  God  was  in  Him.     And  His 

1  Chap.  ii.  39. 

A    QUESTION    OF    DATES.  281 

parents  went  every  year  to  Jerusalem  at  the  solemn  day 
of  the  Pasch;"1  and  then  follows  the  narration  of  what 
took  place  on  one  of  these  occasions,  when  Jesus  was 
twelve  years  old.  While  the  exile  in  Egypt  lasted,  it  is 
plainly  impossible  that  Mary  and  Joseph  should  have 
gone  up  every  year  to  keep  the  Pasch.  Where,  then,  is 
space  left  for  their  abode  in  Egypt,  allowing  even  for  the 
shortest  computation  of  its  length?  St.  Luke,  in  this 
case,  would  not  only  have  omitted  all  mention  of  it  at  the 
time  to  which  .it  is  commonly  referred,  but  have  put  it 
out  of  the  question,  so  to  say,  at  any  future  time.  This 
could  not  be.  If  it  be  urged  that,  though  St.  Luke  says 
"every  year,"  this  may  be  understood  of  every  year 
during  which  they  abode  at  Nazareth,  all  account  of  the 
exile  into  Egypt  being  omitted  because  St.  Matthew  had 
already  related  it,  this  contention  would  apply,  and 
much  more  legitimately,  to  the  having  passed  it  over  at 
an  earlier  time.  The  argument,  consequently,  would, 
prove  too  much,  or  it  would  prove  too  little.  It  would 
remove  no  difficulty,  and  would  create  others;  for  in- 
stance, an  apparent  discrepancy  with  St.  Matthew,  who 
plainly  connects  the  visit  of  the  Magi  with  the  Nativity  : 
"When  Jesus  was  born  in  Bethlehem  of  Judea,  there 
xjame  wise  men  from  the  East  to  Jerusalem".2  More- 
over, the  adoration  of  the  Magi  unquestionably  took 
place  at  Bethlehem.  If,  therefore,  the  afore- mentioned 
supposition  be  admitted,  we  shall  have  to  account  for 
the  Holy  Family's  stay  at  Bethlehem  a  year  later,  and 
that  not  at  the  time  of  the  Pasch,  which  would  have  led 
them  into  its  vicinity. 

The  difficulty  which  this  hypothesis  is  intended  to 
remove  may  be  met  by  a  m.uch  simpler  explanation.  St. 
Matthew,  as  has  been  observed,  makes  no  mention  of  the 
Purification,  and  from  his  account  we  might  conclude 
that  the  angel  appeared  to  Joseph  and  -bade  him  fly  into 
1  Ibid.  vv.  40,  41.  2  Chap.  ii.  1. 

282  ST.    JOSEPH. 

Egypt  immediately  after  the  departure  of  the  Kings, 
whereas  time  must  have  intervened  for  the  Purification r 
which  could  not  take  place  until  the  fortieth  day  had 
been  completed ;  of  this  St.  Matthew  takes  no  notice r 
but  follows  up  his  subject  to  its  close.  St.  Luke,  in  like 
manner,  after  relating  the  circumstances  attending  the 
Purification,  continues  his  own  subject  of  Mary  and 
Joseph's  fulfilment  of  the  prescriptions  of  the  Law  and, 
passing  over  the  interval  of  the  flight  into  Egypt,  records 
their  return  to  settle  in  their  own  city  of  Nazareth,  We 
have  the  authority  of  the  great  St.  Augustine  for  this 

Maria  d'Agreda  has  an  observation  on  the  subject  which 
is  much  to  the  purpose.  After  saying  that  the  perfect 
accordance  of  the  two  Evangelists  had  been  shown  to 
her,  she  draws  attention  to  the  fact  that  St.  Luke,  when, 
speaking  of  the  return  of  Mary  and  Joseph  to  Nazareth, 
immediately  adds  the  words  to  which  reference  has  been 
made :  "  And  the  Child  grew,  and  waxed  strong,  full  of 
wisdom;  and  the  grace  of  God  was  in  Him".  Now 
all  this,  she  remarks,  would  not  have  been  manifested 
until  the  years  of  early  infancy  had  been  passed ;  but 
the  observation  would  naturally  find  its  place  after  the 
return  from  Egypt,  when  Jesus  had  attained  the  age  in 
which  children  begin  to  show  the  full  use  of  reason.  At 
that  date,  therefore,  we  may  presume,  St.  Luke  takes  up 
and  pursues  his  narrative. 

It  would  be  a  mistake  to  judge  the  Gospel  narratives 
as  though  they  were  designed  to  be  independent  and! 
complete  histories  of  our  Lord's  life.  They  were  appa- 
rently written,  each  of  them,  with  a  leading  object  in 
view,  and  relate  chiefly  the  facts  which  serve  to  establis 
it.  Moreover,  St!  Luke,  who  was  evidently  and, 
might  sayr  necessarily  well  acquainted  with  all  that 
been  previously  written,  introduces  fresh  facts,  while  he 
1  De  Consensu  Evangelistarum,  cap.  v. 

A   QUESTION   OF   DATES.  283 

omits  those  which  St.  Matthew  and  St.  Mark  had  re- 
corded. The  same  may  be  observed  of  the  Gospel  of  St. 
John,  which  was  written  later  than  the  others,  and  con- 
tains much  additional  matter,  while  avoiding  repetition 
of  what  had  been  narrated  by  his  predecessors.  Thus 
the  several  Gospels  may  be  said  to  be  supplementary  to 
each  other.1 

The  second  reason  alleged,  which  at  first  sight  seems 
plausible,  is  that  when  Herod  perceived  that  he  had 
been  deluded  by  the  wise  men,  he  sent  "  and  killed  all 
the  men-children  that  were  in  Bethlehem,  and  in  all  the 
borders  thereof,  from  two  years  old  and  under,  according 
to  the  time  which  he  had  diligently  enquired  of  the  wise 
men"2— -that  is,  the  time  when  he  had  learned  from 
them  that  the  star  appeared.  All  children  between  the 
age  of  two  years  and  that  date  were  to  be  slaughtered. 
Now,  if  the  Infant  was  just  born,  why,  it  is  argued,  slay 
all  the  children  of  two  years  old  ?  Does  not  this  very 
fact  go  to  prove  that,  from  the  information  he  had  ob- 
tained, Herod  had  reason  to  believe  that  Jesus  might 
possibly  be  approaching  that  age,  and  was,  at  least,  above 
one  year  old  ?  But  the  question  may  be  reversed.  Why, 
if  he  believed  that  the  Child  was  between  one  and  two 
years  of  age  did  he  cause  the  new-born  infants  to  be 
slain  among  whom  He  would  not  in  that  case  be  found  ? 
Does  it  not  seem  more  probable  that  his  jealous  sus- 
picions would  suggest  to  him  that  the  star  which  had 
summoned  the  Magi  had  possibly  appeared  subsequently 
to  the  birth  of  the  Infant ;  and,  as  to  him  the  shedding 
of  blood  was  no  more  than  the  spilling  of  so  much  water, 
he  would  desire  to  make  sure  of  his  victim  by  including 

1  As  an  instance  of  how  one  Evangelist  will  place  events  in  juxta- 
:  position  which  we  know  from  another  Evangelist  were  separated 
1  by  other  incidents,  we  might  point  to  St.  Mark's  account  of  our 
Lord's  appearances  after  His  Resurrection,  as  given  in  his  conclud- 
ing chapter,  especially  from  the  14th  verse  to  the  close. 
2  St.  Matthew  ii.  16. 

284  ST.    JOSEPH. 

older  children  in  the  slaughter?  "  If,"  says  St.  John 
Chrysostom,  "  Herod  commands  the  massacre  of  all 
children  born  within  two  years,  let  it  cause  no  wonder ; 
because,  fear  and  fury  raging  in  this  tyrant,  he,  from 
excess  of  caution  and  unbridled  power  to  persecute,  in- 
cluded a  longer  time,  so  that  none  who  had  reached  that 
age,  and  among  them  especially  He  on  whose  account 
the  rest  were  killed,  should  escape  him.'' 1 

Local  tradition,  never  to  be  lightly  disregarded,  points 
to  Bethlehem  as  the  place  where  Joseph  was  in  sleep 
bidden  by  the  angel  to  take  the  Child  and  His  mother 
and  flee  into  Egypt.  The  Holy  Family,  it  is  said,  had 
returned  thither,  not,  however,  to  the  cave  of  the 
Nativity,  but  to  a  small  house  not  far  distant,  known 
afterwards  as  the  house  of  Joseph,  near  to  which  was  a 
little  grotto.  Tradition  has  ever  preserved  in  Bethlehem 
the  memory  of  this  grotto,  calling  it  the  Grotto  of  Milk, 
because  the  Blessed  Virgin  is  said  to  have  often  nursed 
her  Divine  Son  therein.2 

Orsini,  however,  in  his  History  of  the  Blessed  Virgin, 
advances  the  opinion,  for  which  he  quotes  the  authority 
of  St.  John  Chrysostom,  that,  after  they  had  performed 
all  things  according  to  the  Law  of  the  Lord,  they  re- 
turned into  Galilee  to  their  city  Nazareth ;  and  this,  with 
the  view  of  reconciling  the  words  of  St.  Luke  with 
St.  Matthew's  account.  At  Nazareth,  then,  he  believe 
Joseph  received  the  divine  command,  and  thence  coi 
menced  his  journey  into  Egypt,  taking  Bethlehem  on  tl 
way.  We  cannot  but  think,  however,  that  in  thus 
posing  of  the  difficulty  created  by  this  apparent 

1  In  Matthceum,  Horn.  vii. 
2  The  piety  of  the  faithful  afterwards  raised  an  altar  within  this 
grotto,  where  Mass  used  to  be  said  every  Saturday.  The  place  was 
held  in  much  veneration  by  nursing  mothers,  not  Catholic  only,  but 
even  Mahometan  and  Hebrew. — Martorelli,  Terra  Santa,  chap.  vii. 
p.  166 ;  Fr.  Lavinio  da  Hamme,  Guida  Indicatrice  del  Santuari  e 
Luoghi  Storici  di  Terra  Santa,  pp.  342,  343. 

A    QUESTION    OF    DATES.  285 

crepancy,  far  more  serious  difficulties  are  created.  From 
Nazareth,  where  they  would  have  been  in  comparative 
safety,  the  HoLy  Family,  according  to  this  account, 
would  have  returne'd  to  the  very  focus  of  danger.  The 
tradition  of  their  having  been  at  Bethlehem  before  the 
flight  is  too  marked,  however,  for  Orsini  to  think  of  set- 
ting it  aside.  "  Whatever,"  he  adds,  "  was  the  motive 
which  led  Joseph  and  Mary  to  the  crater  of  a  volcano, 
there  is  no  doubt  that  they  stayed  there  only  a  few 
hours,  and  that  they  made  haste  to  reach  a  maritime 
town  of  the  Philistines  in  order  to  join  the  first  caravan 
going  to  Egypt."1 

Another  difficulty  in  regard  to  this  view  of  the  return 
to  Nazareth  may  be  perceived  in  the  time  necessarily 
consumed  (about  ten  days)  upon  the  journey  to  and  from 
that  place.  Even  supposing,  then,  that  Joseph  received 
the  angel's  commands  immediately  on  arriving  there,  this 
adds  considerably  to  the  interval  between  the  departure 
of  the  Magi  and  the  massacre  of  the  Innocents.  We 
have  reason,  therefore,  to  conclude  that  the  Holy  Family 
after  the  Presentation  returned  at  once,  not  to  Nazareth, 
but  to  Bethlehem. 

It  may  be  asked,  however,  why  should  Joseph  and 
Mary  have  returned  to  Bethlehem  after  accomplishing 
all  their  legal  obligations  at  Jerusalem.  It  did  not  lie 
naturally  011  their  road  to  Nazareth  and  made,  to  all 
appearance,  an  unnecessary  delay  and  prolongation  of 
their  journey.  For  this  a  reason  has  been  suggested 
which  certainly,  we  cannot  but  think,  has  high  pro- 
bability in  its  favour.  Did  Joseph  and  Mary  really 
purpose  to  return  to  Nazareth  ?  Had  they  not  rather 
resolved  to  settle  at  Bethlehem?  Joseph  had  taken 
Mary  thither  by  a  Providential  dispensation,  the  com- 
pulsory enrolment  of  every  family  in  the  place  to  which 
they  belonged.  Here  she  had  brought  forth  her  Divine 
1  Chap.  xiv. 

286  ST.    JOSEPH. 

Babe ;  here  His  birth  was  celebrated  by  the  Angels  of 
Heaven ;  here  He  was  adored  by  the  shepherds  on  the 
night  of  His  Nativity ;  here  he  was  circumcised  and  re- 
ceived His  Name  of  Jesus ;  and  here  He  was  visited  and 
worshipped  by  the  Magi.  Might  not  this  constellation 
.  of  divine  mysteries  clustering  round  Bethlehem  have 
appeared  in  Joseph's  eyes  as  so  many  signs  from  God 
that  he  should  take  up  his  abode  in  the  city  of  David  ? 
There  are  certain  indications  in  the  Gospel  itself  of  such 
a  purpose  having  been  entertained  by  him.  We  find 
later,  on  the  return  of  the  Holy  Family  from  their  exile 
in  Egypt,  that  Joseph  was,  apparently,  not  intending  to 
go  back  to  Nazareth,  but  that,  when  he  arrived  on  the 
confines  of  Judea,  and  heard  that  "  Archelaus  reigned  in 
Judea  in  the  room  of  Herod  his  father,  he  was  afraid  to 
go  thither".  It  was  to  Bethlehem,  then,  that  he  had 
probably  contemplated  taking  Mary  and  Jesus.  If  he 
had  been  on  his  road  to  Galilee,  this  news  would  not 
have  alarmed  him,  neither  would  he  have  needed  the 
angel's  warning,  which  caused  him  to  "  retire  into  the 
quarters  of  Galilee  "-1 

To  this  supposition  no  slight  countenance  is  given  by 
St.  Matthew's  observation,  "  that  it  might  be  fulfilled 
which  was  said  by  the  prophets  :  that  He  shall  be  called 
a  Nazarite  ";2  by  which  he  seems  to  imply  that  Joseph 
had  intended  to  go  to  Bethlehem,  but  that  his  progress 
was  arrested  by  his  fear  of  Archelaus,  and,  being  warned 
in  sleep,  he  turned  aside  to  Nazareth,  and  thus  was  led 
unconsciously  to  fulfil  what  the  prophets  had  said. 
Joseph  did  not  go  to  Nazareth  in  order  to  fulfil  the 
prophecy.  The  prophecy  had  its  fulfilment  indepen- 
dently of  his  will,  and  from  one  of  those  circumstances 
wh'ich  escape  all  human  calculation,  but  have  formed 
part  of  the  Divine  counsels. 

1  St.  Matthew  ii.  22.  2  Ibid.  v.  23. 

(  287  ) 


ALL  things,  it  has  been  shown,  combine  to  render  it 
most  probable  that  Joseph,  after  the  Purification, 
returned  to  Bethlehem,  and  with  the  purpose  of  settling 
there,  believing  that  all  the  signs  which  had  accompanied 
the  Nativity  of  the  Divine  Infant  marked  it  as  the  place 
befitting  Him  and  agreeable  to  the  will  of  God  signified 
thereby.  If  Mary  had  any  inward  illumination  on  the 
subject  she  would  be  silent.  Joseph  was  the  head  of  the 
Holy  Family  and  its  appointed  ruler,  guide,  and  provider. 
They  probably  left  Jerusalem  immediately ;  and,  if  not 
on  that  very  night,  probably  on  the  next,  Joseph  was 
again  visited  in  sleep  by  the  Archangel  Gabriel.  St. 
Matthew  says,  "  And  after  they,"  that  is,  the  Magi, 
"  were  departed,  behold  an  angel  of  the  Lord  appeared 
in  sleep  to  Joseph,  saying,  Arise  and  take  the  Child  and 
His  mother,  and  fly  into  Egypt,  and  be  there  until  I 
shall  tell  thee.  For  it  will  come  to  pass  that  Herod  will 
seek  the  Child  to  destroy  Him."1 

It  is  evident  that  God,  having  an  infinity  of  means  in 
His  power  by  which  He  might  easily  have  placed  His 
Son  in  safety,  and  shielded  Him  from  Herod's  fury,  was 
pleased  to  choose  that  which  was  the  greatest  abasement 
to  the  Saviour,  flight,  but  at  the  same  time  the  greatest 
honour  to  Joseph  :  an  angel  was  sent  by  the  Eternal 
Father  to  convey  the  commission  to  him  to  carry  His 
Son  into  Egypt.  To  our  short-sighted  views  it  might 

1  Chap.  ii.  13. 

288  ST.    JOSEPH. 

have  appeared  more  convenient  that  the  Divine  Infant 
should  have  been  borne  gently  and  swiftly  through  the 
air  by  this  exalted  spirit  than  that  He  should  have  to 
journey  slowly  and  wearily  along  the  earth  in  the  arms 
of  a  man.  Nevertheless,  God  did  not  confer  this  office 
on  any  of  those  blessed  spirits  whom  He  beheld  kneeling 
in  thousands  and  tens  of  thousands  before  His  throne, 
and  burning  to  execute  His  will  and  to  render  some  act 
of  homage  and  service  to  the  Incarnate  Word.  To 
Joseph  alone  was  to  belong  the  glory  of  preserving  a  life 
whose  every  instant  was  of  incomparably  more  value 
than  the  united  lives  of  all  created  beings.  All  men 
contributed  to  the  death  of  the  Saviour,' one  alone  saved 
Him  from  death  in  His  infancy  ;  so  that,  as  to  one  alone 
among  women,  Mary,  was  He  indebted  for  His  life  as 
man,  so  to  one  alone  among  men  did  He  owe  its  preser- 
vation. Thus  St.  Joseph  has  been  called  the  saviour  of 
the  Saviour,  seeing  that  he  saved  Him  from  death  by 
murder  and  by  starvation. 

Oh,  what  a  glory  was  it  to  this  virgin  father  to  clasp 
in  his  embrace  the  Son  of  God  and  bear  Him  away 
in  safety  from  His  persecutor  !  Truly  might  we  reply 
with  Origen  l  to  any  one  who  should  ask  why  Joseph  is 
called  the  father  of  the  Saviour,  that  it  is  because  he  gave 
Him  protection  against  all  the  dangers  of  the  journey 
into  Egypt.  He  preserved  His  life,  and  thus  earned  a 
fresh  title  to  be  called  His  father,  inasmuch  as  the  pre- 
servation of  anything  ought  to  be  as  highly  esteemed  as 
its  original  production.  God  commissioned  angels  to 
convey  prophets  and  preachers  of  the  Gospel  from  one 
place  to  another,  but  to  Joseph  alone  did  He  intrust  His 
Son  and  the  charge  of  conducting  Him  to  a  place  of 
safety.  Joseph  did  not  make  his  journey  from  Bethlehem 
to  Egypt  as  rapidly  or  as  easily  as  did  the  angel  who 
bore  Habacuc  from  Judea  to  Babylon,  or  as  St.  Philip  the 
1  Horn.  viii.  in  Lucam. 


Deacon,  taken  away  by  the  Spirit  of  the  Lord,  was 
transported  from  the  desert  road  of  Gaza  to  Azotus,1  but 
this  only  enhances  his  glory ;  because  the  journey  cost 
him  so  dear,  being  full  of  labours,  fatigue,  suffering,  and 
peril  to  his  own  liberty  and  even  life,  undergone  to  save 
that  of  Jesus.  More  glory  had  he  in  carrying  the  Son  of 
God  into  Egypt  than  had  the  great  legislator,  Moses,  in 
delivering  the  people  of  God  from  that  house  of  bondage, 
or  than  all  the  angels  who  contributed  to  that  deliver- 
ance, nay,  than  any  of  those  blessed  spirits  who  announced 
the  Birth  of  the  Incarnate  Word,  who  ministered  to  Him, 
and  spread  a  table  for  Him  in  the  Desert,  who  comforted 
Him  in  His  agony,  or  who  watched  at  His  sepulchre  to 
proclaim  the  glad  tidings  of  His  Eesurrection. 

Out  of  regard  to  the  higher  dignity  of  Mary  we  might 
have  thought  that  the  angel  would  have  been  sent  to  her ; 
nevertheless,  it  was  not  to  her,  but  to  Joseph,  that  he  was 
bidden  to  go,  that  it  might  be  known  that  he  was  the 
recognised  head,  tutor,  guide,  governor,  and  guardian  of 
both  Jesus  and  Mary,  and  that  he  it  was  who  was  respon- 
sible for  their  safety.  The  angel,  moreover,  does  not  say, 
Tell  Mary  to  take  her  Son,  but  bids  him  take  the  Child, 
signifying  that  to  him  is  committed  the  charge  of  con- 
veying Him  into  Egypt ;  and,  not  the  Child  only,  but  the 
Mother.  What  an  unspeakable  honour  did  God  thus 
confer  on  Joseph,  in  that  He  confided  to  him  entirely  the 
safety  of  His  most  beloved  and  precious  treasures,  Jesus 
and  Mary  !  The  angel  adds,  "  Ely  into  Egypt  " ;  he  does 
not  say,  "  Ely  with  them,"  for  Joseph  is  the  head  and 
representative  of  the  Holy  Family.  He  is,  as  it  were, 
one  with  Jesus  and  Mary,  he  is  inseparable  from  them. 
Where  Joseph  is,  there  also  are  Jesus  and  Mary.  Joseph, 

1  Daniel  xiv.  32-38  ;  Acts  viii.  39,  40.  Cornelius  a  Lapide  says 
that  the  agent  employed  was  probably  the  same  angel  who  had 
bidden  Philip  take  the  road  to  Gaza  (v.  26) ;  and  for  this  he  cites, 
as  his  authority,  among  others,  St.  Jerome  in  Isaiam,  Ixiii.  9. 


290  ST.    JOSEPH. 

belonging  to  the  order  of  the  Hypostatic  Union,  forms,  in 
fact,  with  Jesus  and  Mary  that  glorious  Triad  on  earth 
which  represents  the  Most  August  Trinity  in  Heaven. 

Many  reasons  may  be  given  why  it  was  decreed  that 
the  Son  of  God  should  seek  refuge  in  Egypt.  St.  Matthew 
mentions  only  one,  after  his  custom  of  showing  how  all 
prophecy  was  accomplished  in  Jesus  :  "  that  it  might  be" 
fulfilled  which  was  spoken  by  the  prophet,  Out  of  Egypt 
have  I  called  My  Son".1  Isaias  and  Ezechiel  had  also 
predicted  that  the  Saviour  should  enter  into  Egypt,  and 
that  the  idols  should  fall  down  at  His  presence.2  We 
may  discern  other  reasons  in  the  abode  which  the  patri- 
archs, Abraham,  Jacob;  and  Joseph,  made  in  that  land. 
The  destinies  of  the  chosen  people  had,  indeed,  been 
intimately  bound  up  with  Egypt  for  centuries;  and  we 
may  well  believe  that  God  had  a  purpose  of  mercy  towards 
that  country  in  decreeing  that  the  Holy  Eamily  should 
seek  refuge  there,  thus  illuminating  and  sanctifying  those 
regions,  which  were  afterwards  to  give  so  many  martyrs 
to  the  faith,  and  to  be  peopled  with  so  many  holy  an- 
chorites, of  whom  St.  Chrysostom  says  that  there  were 
not  in  Heaven  so  many  constellations  as  Egypt  contained 
habitations  of  hermits  and  holy  virgins. 

The  angel  bade  Joseph  remain  there  until  he  should 
bring  him  word  again.  This  uncertainty  must  have  been, 
naturally,  very  painful  to  our  saint,  but,  perfect  model  as  he 
was  of  obedience,  he  asked  not  a  single  question.  How 
many  difficulties  and  objections  the  great  lawgiver, 
Moses,  made  before  he  would  consent  to  undertake  the 
work  of  bringing  back  the  people  of  Israel  from  that  same 
land,  although  the  Lord  promised  to  be  with  him  and 
do  signs  and  wonders !  Joseph  is  bid  to  fly,  no  help  is 
promised  to  him,  no  directions  are  given  to  him,  and  he 
says  not  a  word  upon  receiving  this  unexpected  commis- 

1  Osee  xi.  1 ;  St.  Matthew  ii.  15. 

2  Isaias  xix.  1 ;  Ezekiel  xxx.  13. 

FLIGHT    INTO    EGYPT.  291 

sion.  St.  Francis  de  Sales  observes1  that  herein  the 
angel  treats  Joseph  as  a  perfect  religious ;  he  simply  says  : 
Take  the  Child  and  His  Mother,  and  fly  into  Egypt. 
How  many  questions  might  he  not  have  asked  !  It  was 
then  dark  night ;  was  he  to  wait  till  day  should  dawn? 
To  what  part  of  Egypt  was  he  to  go  ?  Was  he  to  bear 
the  Infant  in  his  arms  during  the  whole  journey,  or  per- 
mit Mary  to  share  that  charge  with  him  ?  Alone,  igno- 
rant of  the  way  ;  exposed  to  danger  from  wild  beasts  and 
robbers  ;  in  the  winter  season ;  unprovided  with  means  ; 
to  have  to  pass  into  foreign  lands,  not  knowing  what 
reception  they  would  meet  with ; — all  this  might  have 
prompted  much  anxious  enquiry.  But  Joseph  was  silent. 
He  had  heard,  and  that  sufficed.  So  he  arose,  and  did 
as  the  angel  had  bidden  him  :  he  took  the  Child  and  His 
mother  by  night,  and  fled  into  Egypt.  St.  Peter  Chryso- 
logus  says  that  this  journey  was  so  arduous  that  the  very 
angels  were  struck  with  wonder  wrhen  they  beheld  the 
Saviour  required  to  make  it.2  To  face  all  these  evils  St. 
Joseph  at  once  generously  devoted  himself,  setting  out  at 
the  very  moment  he  received  the  command,  although,  as 
Cardinal  Cajetan  observes,  the  angel  did  not  precisely 
bid  him  fly  during  the  night.  Even  this  one  circumstance 
of  his  life  must  show  how  singular  and  perfect  was  the 
obedience  of  Joseph.  Albert  the  Great  believes  that  it 
would  be  impossible  for  any  one  to  exhibit  more  readiness 
of  body  and  spirit  than  did  our  saint,  not  tarrying  to  make 
provision  or  enquiry,  nor  even  questioning  the  angel  as  to 
the  road  he  was  to  take.  So  perfect  was  his  docility 
to  the  divine  command  that  a  doctor  of  modern  times 
pronounces  it  to  be  an  especial  work  of  the  Spirit  of  God.3 
There  is  something  very  significant  in  the  brief  and,  as 
we  might  call  them,  decisive  words  in  which  the  Evan- 
gelists always  state  the  obedience  of  Joseph.  No  careful 

1  JSntretieii,  iii.  2  Sermo  cli.  DC,  Fuga,  Christi  in 

3  Claudius  Guilliadus  in  Matthceum,  cap.  x. 

292  ST.    JOSEPH. 

reader  of  the  Gospels  can  fail  to  notice  this.  What  they 
leave  unsaid  strikes  us  as  much  as  what  they  say.  There 
are  volumes  for  meditation  and  instruction  in  those  short 
passages,  and  they  seem  to  make  us  understand  our  saint 
better  than  the  most  detailed  description  would  have 

Joseph  hastened  to  apprize  Mary.  Perhaps  she  already 
knew  all  by  interior  revelation;  but,  whether  or  no, 
Mary's  heart  was  always  prepared  for  suffering,  and  her 
will  to  conform  itself  to  the  expressed  will  of  God ;  she 
never  complained,  she  never  uttered  a  lamentation.  '  She 
had  soon  collected  the  few  things  they  would  carry  with 
them.  Joseph  laid  them  on  the  meek  ass,  their  constant 
companion  and  assistant,  and,  as  we  may  believe,  added 
some  of  the  necessary  implements  of  his  trade.  Then  he 
besought  Mary  to  place  the  Divine  Infant  in  his  arms, 
and  pressing  Him  to  his  bosom,  and  folding  his  mantle 
over  Him  to  shield  and  conceal  Him  and  at  the  same 
time  to  protect  Him  from  the  inclement  blast,  he  went- 
forth,  with  his  august  spouse,  in  the  darkness  and  silence 
of  the  night.  But  which  way  were  they  to  turn  ?  To 
ask  their  road  would  be  a  peril.  He  who  sent  a  star  to 
direct  the  steps  of  the  Magi,  and  who  led  Israel  in  the 
desert  by  a  pillar  of  cloud  in  the  day  and  a  pillar  of  fire 
at  night,  would  be  sure  not  to  leave  the  Holy  Family  to 
make  this  long  and  dangerous  journey  alone  and  deprived 
of  guidance.  We  may,  then,  readily  believe — it  would  be 
difficult  not  to  believe — that  Mary's  guard  of  honour, 
the  angels  appointed  to  be  her  attendants,  were  again 
visible,  if  not  always,  yet  in  the  hour  of  need  and  doubt, 
to  throw  light  upon  their  path. 

It  is  supposed  that  they  took  the  direction  of  Gaza ; 
and,  if  so,  they  passed  near  Hebron.  Mary  must  have 
longed  to  communicate  with  her  cousin  Elizabeth,  that 
she  might  set  her  on  her  guard  against  any  risk  for  the 
safety  of  her  son  John,  but  their  journey  allowed  of  no 


delay,  however  short.  "  Take  the  Child  and  His  mother, 
and  fly  into  Egypt :  "  such  was  the  command  addressed 
to  Joseph,  and  it  would  admit  of  no  reserve.  But  Mary 
may  have  commissioned  one  of  her  guardian  angels  to 
bear  a  warning  message  to  the  house  of  Zachary. 

That  vale  of  Hebron  was  rich  in  fruits,  in  figs,  vines, 
olives,  and  pomegranates,  as  it  was  also  in  pious 
memories.  It  was  there  that  the  explorers  of  the 
land  sent  by  Moses  gathered  rich  figs  and  that  mar- 
vellous bunch  of  grapes  which  required  two  men  to 
bear  it,  as  a  sample  of  the  produce  of  the  land. 1  It  was 
also  on  the  hills  of  Hebron  that,  according  to  Hebrew 
tradition,  Noe  planted  his  first  vine.2  Now  He  was 
passing  who  was  to  be  trodden  in  the  winepress  of  God's 
anger  against  sin,  and  to  pour  forth  all  His  precious 
blood  as  the  wine  of  our  salvation.  Not  venturing  to 
enter  the  city,  the  Holy  Family  stopped  to  rest  in  a 
country- shed  on  the  summit  of  a  hill  about  a  mile  to  the 
north  of  it.  The  spot  has  preserved  to  this  day  the 
memory  of  the  Mother  of  God  by  bearing  her  name, 
which  the  Arabs  still  give  it.  It  has  also  been  a  place  of 
pious  pilgrimage  to  Catholics.8  If  Elizabeth  and  Zachary 
were  able  to  see  their  holy  relatives  as  they  passed,  it 
must  have  been  here.  We  love  to  dwell  on  the  possi- 
bility, and  on  the  joy  which  it  must  have  caused  to  the 
infant  Baptist  to  behold  again,  and  adore,  and  interiorly 
converse  with  Jesus,  the  God-Man,  of  whom  he  was  the 
chosen  Precursor  and  whom  he  was  to  be  the  first  to  pro- 
claim as  the  Lamb  of  God,  who  taketh  away  the  sins  of 
the  world.  The  meeting,  if  it  took  place,  must  have  been 
very  brief,  for  the  fugitives  would  pause  for  repose  no 
longer  than  necessity  imperatively  demanded,  until  they 
had  passed  the  frontiers  of  Herod's  dominions  and  set 
foot  in  the  land  of  the  Philistines. 

1  Numb.  xiii.  24.  2  Gen.  ix.  20. 

3  Martorelli,  Terra  Santa,  cap.  x.  p.  197. 

294  ST.    JOSEPH. 

Scarcely  had  the  Holy  Family  left  the  confines  of 
Bethlehem  when  cries  and  shrieks  began  to  rend  the  air. 
Herod,  furious  at  seeing  himself  deceived  by  the  Magi,  had 
sent  forth  his  cruel  order,  which  his  satellites  hastened  to 
fulfil  to  the  utmost,  and  even  beyond  the  limits  of  his 
orders.  Troops  of  soldiers  had  entered  Bethlehem,  and, 
with  drawn  swords  in  their  hands,  had  burst  into  every 
house  and  butchered  all  the  male  infants,  tearing  them 
from  their  cradles,  and  from  the  arms  of  their  distracted 
mothers,  whose  screams  filled  the  city  and  every  house- 
hold with  consternation.  Whoever  attempted  resistance 
was  slain.  Concealment  was  the  only  resource  for  the 
unhappy  women ;  but  where  and  how  conceal  their 
babes,  whose  innocent  wailings  betrayed  their  hiding- 
place  ?  "  They  knew  not  how  to  be  silent,"  says  St. 
Augustine,  "  because  as  yet  they 'knew  not  how  to  fear."1 
From  Bethlehem  the  carnage  spread  to  the  surrounding 
villages.  The  ground  reeked  with  blood,  and  was  strewn 
with  the  mangled  corpses  of  these  innocents,  and  the 
whole  country  was  filled  with  desolation  and  mourning. 
"  Then,"  says  St.  Matthew,  "was  fulfilled  that  which 
was  spoken  by  Jeremias  the  prophet :  A  voice  in  Eama 
was  heard,  lamentation  and  great  mourning ;  Eachel 
bewailing  her  children,  and  would  not  be  comforted, 
because  they  are  not."2  Eama  was  a  city  of  the  tribe  of 
Benjamin,  on  the  borders  of  Bethlehem,  and  the  prophet 
represents  Eachel  as  weeping  for  her  children,  not  be- 
cause all  these  slaughtered  infants  were  actually  her 
descendants,  but  because,  being  buried  close  to  Bethle- 
hem, she  had  acquired,  so  to  say,  the  rights  and  the 
name  of  mother  of  these  babes.8 

Herod's  cruel  order  was  limited  to  children  who  were 
not   above   two  years  old ;    but   how  many  may   have 

1  Sermo  i.  de  Innocentibus. 

2  St.  Matthew  ii.  17,  18 ;  Jeremias  xxxi.  15. 

3  St.  Jerome,  lib.  i.  Comment,  in  Matthceum,  cap.  ii. 


perished  who  had  passed  that  age  !  The  male  children 
alone  were  to  be  the  victims  of  his  fury ;  but  how  many 
female  infants  may  have  been  also  recklessly  slaughtered ! 
How  many  mothers  were  slain  by  the  same  sword  that 
pierced  their  babes  lying  on  their  bosoms  !  How  many 
fathers  and  brothers,  casting  themselves  between  the 
children  and  the  armed  soldiers  to  protect  them,  mingled 
their  blood  with  that  of  these  martyred  innocents  t  The 
executioners  swept  through  all  the  neighbouring  villages, 
and,  tradition  tells  us,  reached  even  Hebron,  the  infant 
Baptist  being  saved  by  his  mother,  who,  as  soon  as  she 
caught  a  sight  of  Herod's  soldiers,  ran  with  him  to  the 
top  of  the  mount  still  called  "  St.  John  on  the  mountain," 
where  a  rock  is  shown  which  miraculously  opened  to 
conceal  the  mother  and  her  son  from  their  murderous 
pursuers.1  Macrobius  says  that  in  this  manner  even  a, 
son  of  Herod  perished  who  had  been  put  out  to  nurse  at 
Bethlehem.  Other  accounts  state  three ;  which  made 
Caesar  Augustus,  the  Eoman  Emperor,  exclaim,  when  he 
heard  of  this  brutal  act,  that  it  would  be  better  to  be  a 
pig  than  Herod's  son,  since  in  the  capacity  of  a  Jewish 
proselyte  he  would  spare  swine,  while  he  put  his  sons  to 

1  Joannes  Phocas,  ssec.  xii.,  quoted  by  Martorelli,  Terra  Santa, 
cap.  xxiii.  p.  402,  n.  This  desert  grotto,  where  St.  John  is  believed 
to  have  lived  an  eremitical  life,  previous  to  his  entering  on  his 
office  of  Precursor,  has  been  now  transformed  into  a  chapel  by 
Mgr.  Valerga,  where  Mass  is  daily  offered  by  an  anchorite,  who  has 
taken  up  his  abode  among  some  neighbouring  ruins,  eating  only 
bread  and  dried  fruit  sent  to  him  by  the  nuns  of  Our  Lady  of  Sion, 
and  drinking  only  of  the  spring  which  used  to  quench  the  Baptist's 
thirst.  Here  he  spends  his  time  in  prayer,  meditation,  and  the 
cultivation  of  a  small  plot  of  ground.  He  is  a  Frenchman,  a  native 
of  Villeneuve-les-Avignon,  and  had  been  an  officer  in  the  French 
army,  but  was  afterwards  on  the  staff  of  Don  Carlos.  Quitting  the 
service,  he  became  a  Trappist,  but  subsequently,  by  the  advice  of 
superiors,  studied  for  the  priesthood,  was  ordained,  and  belonged  for 
seven  years  to  the  secular  clergy,  when,  having  made  a  pilgrimage 
to  the  Holy  Land,  he  was  attracted  to  his  present  life  of  religious 
solitude  by  a  visit  to  the  monastery  of  St.  John  in  the  Desert.  (See 
Catholic  Missions,  July,  1887,  p.  39.) 

296  ST.    JOSEPH. 

death.  Happy  sons,  if  so  indeed  it  was,  to  be  numbered 
among  the  Holy  Innocents,  instead  of  growing  up  to 
tread,  perhaps,  in  the  steps  of  their  father  !  What  was 
the  number  of  these  slaughtered  babes  we  know  not. 
Some  of  the  ancient  doctors  extend  it  to  an  amount 
which  would  seem  incredible,  after  making  every  allow- 
ance for  the  larger  population  of  Bethlehem  and  its 
adjacent  territory  than  at  the  present  time.  The  Greeks 
and  Abyssinians  in  their  liturgy  have  retained  the  num- 
ber of  fourteen  thousand,  but  the  Holy  Eoman  Church, 
in  the  absence  of  any  precise  statement  in  Scripture  or 
tradition,  simply  says  that  Herod,  enraged,  slew  many 

That  they  were  true  martyrs  of  the  New  Law  there 
was  never  any  question ;  because  they  died  for  Jesus, 
and  martyrdom  consists,  not  in  the  pain  of  death,  but  in 
its  cause.  The  Church,  indeed,  addresses  them  as  the 
flowers  of  the  martyrs,  because,  in  the  opening  of  life, 
the  fierce  persecutor  of  Christ  cut  them  off  as  the  blast 
cuts  off  the  budding  roses.2  They  were  also  the  first  who 
shed  their  blood  for  Christ,  and  the  saying  this  offers  no 
contradiction  to  the  assertion  that  St.  Stephen  was  the 
Protomartyr  of  the  New  Law,  since  he  was  the  first  of 
the  holy  martyrs  who,  after  the  Passion  of  our  Lord,  con- 
fessed the  faith  both  by  word  and  deed ;  but  the  Holy 
Innocents  confessed  the  faith,  not  with  their  tongues,  but 
by  their  death,  which  was  to  them  a  baptism  of  blood. 
Hence  the  Church,  in  her  prayer  for  their  feast,  says  of 
them,  "Non  loquendo,  sed  moriendo,  confessi  sunt — they 
confessed,  not  by  speaking,  but  by  dying".8  When  the 

1  Office  of  the  Holy  Innocents. 
3  Hymn.  Ad  Laud.  SS.  Innocentium. 

s  Oral.  SS.  Innocentium.  It  has  been  piously  believed  by  some 
that  these  infants,  at  the  moment  of  their  martyrdom,  were  gifted 
with  a  premature  use  of  reason,  and  enlightened  to  know  the  cause 
for  which  they  died,  thus  enabling  them  to  add  merit  to  the 
innocency  of  their  sacrifice. 


Empress  St.  Helen  built  the  Church  of  the  Nativity 
over  the  grotto  of  Bethlehem,  many  of  the  little  bodies 
and  relics  of  the  Holy  Innocents  were  collected  by  her 
and  placed  in  that  church,  where  subsequently  a  sub- 
terranean chapel  was  constructed  and  consecrated  to 
them.  Besides  the  ancient  accounts,  we  may  refer  to 
the  pages  of  a  modern  traveller,  who  thus  describes  what 
he  saw :  "  From  the  chapel  of  St.  Joseph  you  pass, 
descending  five  steps,  to  that  of  the  Holy  Innocents, 
whose  precious  memory  has  been  exalted  to  high  honour 
by  the  Infant  God  for  whom  they  died.  A  pillar  supports 
the  subterranean  vault  of  the  little  sanctuary,  and  there 
is  a  small  cave  under  the  altar,  in  which  repose  some 
relics  of  their  tender  bodies,  innocent  victims  of  the  dark 
and  ferocious  jealousy  of  Herod,  who  from  the  loving 
embrace  of  their  mothers  were  carried  by  the  angels  to 
the  bosom  of  Abraham."  1  Of  them  the  Church  sings : 
"  Vos  prima  Christi  victima,  Grex  immolatorum  tener, 
Aram  sub  ipsam  simplices  Palma  et  coronis  luditis — You, 
the  first  victims  of  Jesus,  tender  flock  of  the  slain,  simple 
little  ones,  play  under  the  altar  with  your  palms  and 
crowns".  A  worthy  resting-place  it  was  for  these  mar- 
tyred babes,  the  spot  where  He  was  born  who  is  the  God 
of  the  innocent  and  of  the  persecuted. 

1  Martorelli,  Terra  Santa,  chap.  vii.  p.  163. 

(  298  ) 


QCEIPTUEE  does  not  tell  us  by  what  road  the  Holy 
kJ  Family  fled  into  Egypt,  but  there  can  be  little  doubt 
that  it  was  by  the  way  that  goeth  down  from  Jerusalem 
to  Gaza,  which,  as  we  read  in  Acts  viii.  26,  wras  desert. 
It  was  by  that  road  that  the  minister  of  Candace,  Queen 
of  the  Ethiopians,  was  returning  to  his  country  -when 
Philip  overtook  him.  But  he  was  a  great  man,  seated 
at  ease  in  his  chariot,  where  he  could  beguile  the  way 
by  reading,  and  surrounded  by  his  servants,  ready  to 
minister  to  his  wants.  How  different  was  the  case  of 
the  Holy  Family,  alone,  without  attendance,  and  with 
the  most  scanty  provision  for  their  needs  !  But  they  had 
to  face  a  worse  desert  after  leaving  Gaza.  Passing 
through  the  land  of  the  Philistines,  they  directed  their 
steps,  as  is  commonly  believed,  to  Heliopolis.  This  was 
the  easiest,  shortest,  and  least  perilous  road  ;  neverthe- 
less, the  holy  travellers  would  have  to  traverse  full 
seventy  leagues,  of  which,  about  fifty  were  solitary  and 

Many  wonders  are  related  of  this  journey  which  ai 
here  omitted,  as  lacking  sufficient  proof,  but  there  is  one 
which  cannot  be  passed  over  in  silence,  abundantly  su] 
ported  as  it  is  by  tradition.     Gaume,  in  his  admirable 
Life  of  the  Good  Thief,  gives  several  versions  of  this  inci- 
dent, but  in  the  main  points  they  agree.     It  is  related  b} 
many  learned  writers,  and  therefore  must  not,  as  Po] 
Benedict  XIII.1  observes,  be  laid  aside  as  apocryphal  01 
1  Sermo  v.  de  Vita  Marice. 

JOURNEY    IN    THE    DESERT.  299 

doubtful.  True,  it  is  first  mentioned  in  one  of  the  earliest 
apocryphal  writings,  but,  as  we  have  already  observed, 
this,  if  not  in  itself  sufficient  authority,  is  far  from' 
being  a  reason  for  its  rejection ;  and  its  adoption  in  one 
form  or  another  by  so  many  early  ecclesiastical  writers 
furnishes  a  strong  ground  for  believing  that  the  tradition 
was  based  on  fact.  When  we  find  the  story  accepted 
by  such  great  saints  and  scholars  as  St.  Augustine  and  St. 
Anselm,  not  to  speak  of  others,  we  may  be  sure  that  the 
evidence  in  its  behalf  was  satisfactory  in  their  days.  It' 
runs  thus  :  The  Holy  Family  having  crossed  the  torrent 
Besor,  which  is  the  torrent  of  the  desert,  and  entered  a 
thick  forest  of  ancient  trees,  found  themselves  suddenly 
in  presence  of  a  band  of  robbers.  Men  of  this  class  were 
ready  to  seize  on  unprotected  travellers,  and  pitilessly 
spoil,  if  not  murder  them.  If  this  could  happen  on-  the  fre- 
quented road  between  Jerusalem  and  Jericho,  where, 
according  to  our  Lord's  parable,  which  possibly  embodied 
a  true  incident,  a  certain  man  fell  among  thieves,  who 
stripped  and  wounded  him,  leaving  him  half  dead,  well 
might  the  like  occur  in  this  lonely  and  trackless  wilder- 
ness ;  nevertheless,  these  ferocious  ruffians,  strangers  to 
compassion,  were  arrested  by  the  sight  which  met  their 
eyes.  They  stayed  their  hands ;  and  their  leader,  step- 
ping forward,  was  so  much  struck  by  the  majestic  sweet- 
ness of  the  Infant,  the  beauty  and  modesty  of  the  Mother, 
and  the  simple  dignity  of  Joseph,  that  he  not  only  forbade 
his  followers  to  injure  a  hair  of  their  heads,  but  treated 
them  with  courtesy,  and  conducted  them  to  his  own  tent, 
where  he  harboured  them  for  the  night.  On  the  follow- 
ing morning,  having  furnished  Joseph  with  provision  for 
the  way,  he  accompanied  them  a  certain  distance,  and,  in 
taking  leave  of  them,  having  discerned,  bad  man  as  he 
was,  the  holiness  of  his  guests,  he  asked  for  their  prayers, 
and  the  Virgin  benignantly  promised  him  that  for  the 
charity  which  he  had  shown  them  God  would  not  leave 

300  ST.    JOSEPH. 

him  unrewarded.  And  this  man,  the  same  story  asserts, 
was  Dismas  the  Good  Thief,  who,  having  years  after- 
wards fallen  into  the  hands  of  justice,  was  condemned  to 
be  crucified  in  punishment  of  his  many  crimes.  His 
cross  was  on  the  right  of  that  of  Jesus,  the  side  on  which 
Mary  stood ;  and,  then  and  there  repenting  of  his  sins, 
he  confessed  Jesus  as  the  true  Messias,  and  besought 
Him  to  remember  him  when  He  came  into  His  kingdom ; 
to  which  Jesus  replied :  "  To-day  thou  shalt  be  with  Me 
in  Paradise  ".l 

The  Holy  Family  cannot  have  traversed  the  desert  in 
less  than  fifteen  days,  and  that,  too,  amidst  continual 
perils  of  wild  beasts  and  robbers,  and  all  the  sufferings  of 
exposure  and  privation  incidental  to  travelling  through 
so  desolate  a  region.  This  was  the  desert  in  which  Elias 
took  refuge  when  he  fled  from  the  vengeful  wrath  of 
Jezabel,  and  in  which  he  was  comforted  by  an  angel,  who 
brought  him  a  hearth-cake  and  a  vessel  of  water,  in  the 
strength  of  which  miraculous  food  he  walked  forty  days 
and  forty  nights  to  the  Mount  of  Horeb.2  God  also 
poured  down  manna  on  the  people  of  Israel  to  feed  them 
in  the  wilderness.  Would  such  favours  be  wanting  now 
at  His  hand?  For  here  it  was  no  longer  to  supply 
with  sustenance  a  prophet  of  the  Lord,  or  an  ungrateful 
and  stiff-necked  people,  but  to  preserve  the  natural  life 
Him  on  whom  the  eternal  life  of  the  whole  human  race 
depended,  and  the  life  of  His  Blessed  Mother  and  of  His 
holy  foster-father,  to  whose  charge  He  had  been  com- 
mitted. It  would  not  seem  to  have  been  possible  for  the 
Holy  Family  to  have  carried  with  them,  or  even  to  have 
obtained  on  the  way,  more  than  the  scantiest  provision 

1  St.  John  xxiv.  40-43.  Dismas,  it  is  thought,  was  an  Egyptian 
by  birth,  and  there  is  a  tradition  in  Palestine  that  he  had  dwelt  in 
a  village  between  Nob  and  Nicopolis,  now  called  Latran.— Lavinio 
da  Hamme,  Guida  Indicatrice  de  Santuarii  e  Luoghi  Storici  di  Terra 
Santa,  p.  59. 

2  3  Kings  xix.  2-8. 


when  they  entered  on  this  trackless  sandy  desert  of  a 
hundred  and  fifty  miles'  extent,  so  that,  even  granting 
that  the  charity  of  the  Good  Thief  replenished  their  little 
stock,  it  must  have  been  exhausted  long  before  they 
could  reach  a  land  of  fruits  and  fountains.  Here,  then,  was 
assuredly  a  call  for  miraculous  interposition;  and  we  may 
reasonably  believe  that  the  angels,  who  afterwards  minis- 
tered to  Jesus  when  He  had  fasted  forty  days  and  forty 
nights  in  the  desert,  supplied  the  wants  of  the  Holy 
Family  when  all  natural  means  of.  support  had  failed 
them.  Maria  d'Agreda  confirms  this  view  in  her  visions 
of  the  flight  into  Egypt. 

On  leaving  the  desert  the  holy  exiles  would  enter  on 
the  fertile  lands  of  Gessen,  where  large  possessions  were 
assigned  to  Jacob  and  his  sons  by  the  ancient  Joseph, 
when  Viceroy  of  Egypt ;  and  here  the  question  presents 
itself  :  Did  they  direct  their  course  immediately  to  Heli- 
opolis,  which  tradition  points  to  as  the  place  of  their 
abode  while  in  Egypt,  or  did  they  make  a  circuit,  visiting 
other  cities  by  divine  direction  ?  for  it  is  not  to  be  over- 
looked that  local  traditions  point  to  their  presence  else- 
where. Without  relying  on  the  visions  of  saints  as  pre- 
cise authorities  in  questions  of  this  character,  which,  as 
we  have  already  stated,  was  not  our  intention,  it  is  well 
to  allude  to  whatever  may  serve  to  throw  a  light  on  facts 
apparently  contradictory,  but  having  all  a  certain  degree 
of  traditionary  evidence  in  their  favour. 

The  flight  of  the  Incarnate  Word  into  Egypt,  as  Maria 
d'Agreda  observes,  had  other  ends  in  view  besides  the 
escape  from  Herod's  fury,  mysterious  ends  which  had 
been  shadowed  forth  in  ancient  prophecy.  Our  Lord,  so 
to  say,  made  this  flight  the  means  of  accomplishing  them, 
and  passed  into  Egypt  to  work  in  that  land  the  miracles 
of  which  Ezechiel  and  Osee,1  and,  still  more  expressly, 
Isaias,  had  spoken  :  "  Behold  the  Lord  will  ascend  upon 
1  Ezechiel  xxx.  13  ;  Osee  xi.  1. 

302  ST.    JOSEPH. 

a  light  cloud,  and  will  enter  into  Egypt,  and  the  idols  of 
Egypt  shall  be  moved  at  His  presence,  and  the  heart  of 
Egypt  shall  melt  in  the  midst  thereof".1  Now,  all  this 
came  to  pass  when  the  Infant  Jesus,  borne  in  the  arms 
of  His  Immaculate  Virgin  Mother,  symbolised  by  a  light 
cloud,  came  into  that  land.  Maria  d'Agreda  says  that, 
before  settling  at  Heliopolis,  the  Holy  Family  was  led  by 
angelic  guidance  to  visit  various  other  places  where  the 
Lord  designed  to  work  wonders  and  pour  blessings  on  the 
benighted  people,  for  the  whole  land  was  given  up  to 
idolatry  and  superstition.  Every  little  village  was  full  of 
idols;  many  possessed  temples  which  were  tenanted 
by  devils,  whom  the  poor  ignorant  inhabitants  adored 
with  sacrifices  and  rites  enjoined  by  these  same  de- 
mons, receiving  answers  to  their  prayers  and  questions, 
by  which  they  were  deluded  and  led  away.  It  needed 
the  strong  arm  of  the  Lord,  that  is,  of  the  Word  made 
Flesh,  to  rescue  this  people  from  the  tyranny  of  Satan. 
To  obtain  this  victory  over  the  infernal  enemy,  and  to 
illuminate  those  who  lay  in  the  region  and  shadow  of 
death,  the  Most  High  was  pleased  that  Christ,  the  Sun 
of  Justice,  should,  only  a  few  days  after  His  nativity, 
appear  in  Egypt,  and  make  a  progress  through  the  land 
to  enlighten  all  by  His  divine  power.  The  Infant  Jesus, 
says  Maria  d'Agreda,  had  no  sooner  entered  the  inhabited 
territory  with  His  Mother  and  St.  Joseph  than,  joining 
His  Hands,  He  prayed  to  His  Heavenly  Father  for  the 
salvation  of  these  slaves  of  the  devil,  and  immediately 
used  His  divine  and  royal  authority  to  precipitate  into 
the  abyss  the  evil  spirits  who  dwelt  in  the  idols.  At  the 
same  time,  the  idols  themselves  tottered  and  fell  to  the 
ground  with  a  great  noise,  and  the  altars  and  temples 
became  heaps  of  ruins.  The  cause  of  these  wonders 
well  known  to  Mary,  who  inwardly  accompanied  IK 

1  Chap.  xix.  i.    "Light  cloud"  is  in  the  Douai  Version  translat 
"  swift  cloud". 


Divine  Son  in  all  His  petitions,  as  Co-operatrix  in  the 
salvation  of  the  human  race ;  so  also  did  Joseph  well 
know  that  all  these  works  were  accomplished  by  the 
Incarnate  Word,  and  with  holy  admiration  blessed  and 
praised  Him ;  but  the  devils,  although  they  felt  the 
compelling  force,  of  the  divine  power,  were  ignorant 
whence  it  proceeded.  So  God  willed.  If,  of  old,  the 
image  of  the  Philistine  god,  Dagon,  was  prostrated  to 
the  ground  by  the  Ark  of  God,1  in  which  the  glory  of  the 
Lord  dwelt  only  representatively  by  the  ministry  of  His 
angels,  how  much  more  might  we  expect  that  the  idols 
of  the  Gentiles  should  be  broken  to  pieces  by  the  presence 
of  the  Word  of  God  Himself  ! 

The  Egyptians  were  moved  to  wonder  by  this  strange 
event.  True,  some  light  still  lingered  among  their  wise 
and  learned  men,  through  a  tradition  come  down  from 
their  ancestors,  who  had  heard  the  voice  of  the  prophet 
Jeremias,  when  he  abode  amongst  them,  declaring  that 
the  Lord  was  the  true  God,  the  everlasting  King,  before 
whom  the  earth  should  tremble,  and  that  the  gods,  which 
were  the  work  of  the  artificer's  hands,  should  perish  from 
the  earth,  and  from  those  places  that  are  under  heaven.2 
These  and  many  other  truths  concerning  the  great  King 
who  was  to  come  they  must  have  dimly  known,  but  from 
the  multitude  they  were  hidden.  Accordingly  all  was 
fear  and  confusion,  and,  as  Isaias  expresses  it,  the  heart 
of  Egypt  "  melted  "  •  each  man  asked  his  neighbour  what 
might  this  thing  mean.  And  some,  beholding  with 
curiosity  the  strangers  who  had  come  amongst  them, 
would  draw  nigh  and  accost  our  Lady  and  St.  Joseph, 
speaking  of.  the  ruin  of  their  temples  and  their  gods. 
Mary  was  so  sweet  and  gentle  in  all  her  words,  which 
had  a  heavenly  efficacy  in  them,  and  her  countenance 
was  so  divinely  beautiful,  that  many  were  attracted  to 
listen  to  her  as  she  spoke  of  the  true  God,  who  made  all 
1 1  Kings  v.  3-5.  2  Chap.  x.  11. 

304  ST.    JOSEPH. 

things,  and  the  vanity  and  falsehood  of  idols.  To 
Joseph,  the  head  of  this  wandering  and  wonderful 
family,  many  questions  were  sure  to  be  addressed ;  but 
in  this  case  we  are  not  left  to 'conjecture,  or  to  the  re- 
velations of  saints,  for  ecclesiastical  tradition  confirms  us 
in  the  opinion.  St.  Jerome,  indeed,  believed  that  Joseph 
frequently  disputed  concerning  the  truths  of  religion  with 
the  Egyptians,  in  order  to  draw  them  out  of  their  gross 
errors.  The  sanctity  of  his  life  contributed  equally  with 
his  conversation  towards  their  conversion ;  and  it  was 
assuredly  fitting  that  the  new  Joseph  should  be  the 
Doctor  of  Egypt,  as  was  the  ancient,  whom,  as  we  read 
in  the  104th  Psalm,  the  King  had  "  made  master  of  his 
house  and  ruler  of  all  his  possessions,  that  he  might 
instruct  his  princes  as  himself,  and  teach  his  ancients 
wisdom  ".  If  this  be  so,  the  aureole  of  Doctor  as  well  as 
of  Apostle  cannot  be  denied  to  our  Joseph. 

Heliopolis,"at  any  rate,  seems  to  have  been  the  ter- 
minus of  the  Holy  Family's  journey,  whatever  may  have 
been  the  extent  of  their  wanderings.  In  this  city  was 
the  famous  Temple  of  the  Sun,1  so  celebrated  by  ancient 
writers,  in  which  no  less  than  three  hundred  and  sixty- 
five  deities  are  said  to  have  been  worshipped.  When 
Joseph,  then,  with  the  most  holy  Virgin  and  the  Divine 
Infant  entered  this  city  and  paused  awhile  in  front  of  the 
temple,  it  is  a  constant  tradition,  authorised  by  many 
Fathers  and  Doctors  of  the  Church,2  that  all  the  imaj 
of  those  lying  gods  which  it  contained  were  shakei 
and  fell  to  the  ground;  as  if  to  demonstrate,  says  P. 
Segneri,3  that  in  presence  of  the  true  God  no  false  gc 
can  stand.  Tostatus  adds  that,  when  the  idols  in  Helic 

1  Aseneth,  the  mother  of  the  first  Joseph,  was  the  daughter 
Putiphare,  priest  of  Heliopolis  (Gen.  xli.  45). 

2  P.  Donato  Calvi,  Proprinom.  Evang.  Eisol.  v.     Tostatus,  q. 
in  Matthceum,  cap.  ii. 

3  Manna  delV  Anima,  16  Maggio. 


polls  fell  down,  the  same  catastrophe  occurred  in  all  the 
other  temples  throughout  the  land  of  Egypt.  We  have 
given  the  two  accounts  without  pretending  to  examine,  still 
less  to  decide,  which  may  be  the  more  accurate  state- 
ment as  to  the  order  of  events,  of  which  the  substance 
remains  the  same  whichever  view  we  adopt.  The 
learned  Cartagena's  words  might,  indeed,  be  applicable 
to  either,  for  he  says,  in  a  general  way,  that  when  Christ 
entered  into  Egypt  there  was  no  temple  throughout  the 
land  in  which  the  idols  were  not  cast  down.1  Tradition 
also  relates  how  Aphrodisius,  the  High-Priest  of  the  Sun, 
having  heard  the  fatal  news,  hastened  to  the  spot  full  of 
wrath,  but  that  when  he  saw  Jesus  in  the  Virgin's  arms 
and  the  humble  Joseph,  he  was  struck  with  such  awe 
and  reverence  that  he  at  once  recognised  in  this  Babe 
the  true  God,  and,  casting  himself  on  his  knees,  adored 
Him,  saying  to  all  the  people  who  had  flocked  to  the 
scene  of  destruction,  "  If  this  were  not  the  God  of  our 
gods,  they  would  not  have  prostrated  themselves  before 
Him,  and,  if  we  do  not  the  same,  we  shall  incur  the 
peril  of  Pharao".2  We  are  also  told  that  he  offered  the 
Holy  Family  hospitality  under  his  roof,  but  that  Joseph 
would  not  accept  it,  and  retired  with  Jesus  and  Mary  to 
a  neighbouring  village  ;  nevertheless  his  house,  it  is  said, 
would  always  have  been  open  to  them.  This  same 
Aphrodisius  was  subsequently  instructed  by  St.  Paul, 
and,  after  being  pontiff  of  an  idolatrous  worship,  became 
a  priest  of  the  New  Law,  and  was  ultimately  ordained 
Bishop  of  Beziers,  in  Gaul,  where  he  closed  his  holy  life 
by  a  glorious  martyrdom  at  the  age  of  101,  along  with 
three  companions,  whose  names  have  also  been  recorded  : 
Caralippus,  Agapitus,  and  Eusebius.  The  Gallican 
Martyrology  assigns  their  united  feast  to  March  12th, 
saying  that  Aphrodisius  hospitably  received  as  guests  for 
seven  years  the  Divine  Infant  with  His  Mother  and  St. 
1  Lib.  ix.  Horn.  ix.  2  Tostatus,  ibid. 


306  ST.   JOSEPH. 

Joseph.  But  this  statement  can  hardly  be  accepted 
literally,  believing,  as  we  do,  that  Joseph  knew  that  it 
was  he  who  was  commissioned  to  support  the  Child  and 
His  Mother,  and  that  he  would  therefore  not  have  con- 
sented to  see  this  obligation  discharged  by  another.  It 
is,  however,  reconcilable  with  the  supposition  that 
Aphrodisius  placed  his  house  at  their  disposal,  which 
gave  him  the  merit  of  a  hospitality  which  he  was  not 
permitted  to  exercise.  Some  also  say  that  he  gave  the 
Holy  Family  the  cottage  which  they  occupied.  The 
Eoman  Martyrology  fixes  the  feast  of  St.  Aphrodisius 
and  his  companions  on  April  28th. 

There  is  a  village  between  Heliopolis  and  Memphis 
called  Matarieh  by  the  Arabs.  Here  is  a  garden  of 
balsam  shrubs,  and,  as  olive  trees  still  survive  in  the 
Garden  of  Gethsemane,  we  may  well  imagine  that  this 
sweet  and  salutary  plant,  fit  emblem  of  Him  who  was 
come  to  be  the  Healer  of  the  Nations,  flourished  in  the 
days  when  Joseph  took  the  Child  and  His  Mother  to 
dwell  in  its  vicinity.  In  this  village  they  remained  until 
the  angel  signified  to  Joseph  the  divine  command  to 
return  to  Judea.  Memphis  and  even  Hermopolis  and 
Alexandria  are  said  by  some  writers  to  have  been  the 
abode  of  the  Holy  Family,  as  well  as  old  Cairo,  situated 
between  Memphis  and  Matarieh.  At  this  place  the  spot 
to  which  they  are  believed  to  have  retired  is  now  inclosed 
within  the  monastery  of  St.  Sergius ;  and  in  order  to  see 
it  a  descent  of  twelve  steps  must  be  made,  which  recalls 
to  mind  the  grotto  of  Bethlehem.  Very  likely,  as  has 
been  observed,  they  may  have  made  a  passing  sojourn  in 
these  various  places,  but  the  many  religious  memories 
which  have  clung  to  Matarieh,  and  which  cannot  be 
recognised  elsewhere,  seem  to  confirm  the  most  reliable 
tradition  which  we  possess  on  this  subject.  In  Matarieh 
there  still  exists  a  sycamore  of  enormous  girth,  standing 
in  a  vast  garden— it  might  rather  be  called  a  forest— of 


orange  trees.  Under  its  spreading  shade  the  Holy  Family 
are  said  to  have  rested.1  This  tree  is  much  venerated  in 
the  East,  Mahometans  even  calling  it  the  tree  of  Jesus 
and  Mary.  Fifty  paces  from  it  is  the  Fountain  of  the 
Virgin,  to  which  a  miraculous  origin  is  attributed.  God 
caused  it  to  spring  forth  to  allay  the  thirst  of  Mary  and 
Joseph  in  a  country  parched  by  the  burning  rays  of  the 
sun.  The  water  of  this  spring  was  pure  and  sweet, 
whereas  that  of  all  the  rest  in  the  neighbourhood  was 
brackish  and  bad.  Here  Mary  used  to  go  to  draw  water 
in  her  little  amphora,  and  here,  too,  tradition  says,  she 
used  to  wash  the  swaddling-bands  of  the  Infant  Jesus ;  for 
which  reason  the  sick  and  infirm  come  to  drink  thereat, 
and  often,  it  is  said,  recover  their  health.  A  short  way  from 
it  is  a  large  stone  upon  which  the  Virgin  Mother  used  to 
spread  the  linen  to  dry.  All  these  spots  are  reverenced 
by  Mahometans  as  well  as  by  Christians.2  The  Empress 
Eugenie,  when  she  visited  Egypt  after  the  opening  of  the 
Suez  canal,  went  to  see  the  ancient  sycamore,  and  ex- 
pressed a  desire  to  possess  it.  The  Viceroy  of  Egypt 
complied  with  her  wish,  and  made  a  present  of  the  tree 
to  France.  Eugenie  had  it  surrounded  with  a  handsome 
iron  fence  for  its  protection,  and  two  guardians  were 
appointed  to  keep  it,  and  to  cultivate  lilies  and  jessamine 
within  the  enclosure. 

1  See  P.  Geramb's  account  of  his  journey  from  Jerusalem  to 
Mount  Sinai.  This  sycamore,  it  is  supposed,  must  be  a  shoot  from 
the  parent  stem.  The  ancient  tree  is  believed  to  have  fallen  down 
in  the  llth  century  from  old  age. 

2  Trombelli,  Vita  di  S.  Giuseppe,  par.  i.  cap.  xxiv.  n.  17. 

(  308  ) 


WHY  did  not  Joseph  accept  the  offer  of  Aphrodisius  ? 
In  his  house  Mary  and  Jesus  would  have  found 
safety,  comfort,  ease,  and  repose.  Joseph,  however,  as 
we  have  said,  declined,  though,  no  doubt,  gratefully  and 
graciously,  the  proffered  hospitality,  and  preferred  the 
seclusion  of  a  poor  cottage  in  an  obscure  village.  And, 
in  doing  so,  there  can  be  no  question  that  he  was  obey- 
ing the  light  from  Heaven  which  guided  his  steps ;  but 
at  the  same  time  we  may  believe  that  he  was  illuminated 
in  his  understanding  to  realise  the  fitness  of  the  com-- 
mand,  grounded  on  the  nature  of  the  offices  intrusted  to 
him  ;  and  those  offices  were  themselves  the  inseparable 
consequences  of  the  state  which  our  Divine  Lord  had 
assumed  when  He  was  born  into  the  world. 

First,  then,  He  was  pleased  to  appear  in  a  state  of 
poverty;  secondly,  He  came  as  a  child;  thirdly,  as  an 
orphan,  that  is,  without  an  earthly  father.  Now,  these 
three  states  imposed  on  Joseph  three  corresponding  obli- 
gations :  first,  that  of  labouring  in  order  to  supply  His 
needs ;  secondly,  that  of  rearing  and  instructing  Him  as 
He  grew ;  thirdly,  that  of  acting  as  His  parent  and 

There  is  no  denying  that  the  Incarnate  Word,  His 
Blessed  Mother,  and  her  incomparable  spouse  professed 
through  life  the  strictest  poverty,  yet  we  never  hear,  as 
the  learned  Cardinal  of  Cambrai  observes,  of  the  Son  of 
God  having  to  beg  His  bread,  either  as  a  child  or  during 

HIS    OFFICES.  309 

His  hidden  life.  Who  fed  Him  all  that  time  ?  Joseph, 
replies  St.  Jerome  ;  for  the  Saviour  chose  to  share  the 
poverty  of  His  parents,1  and  contented  Himself  with  the 
sustenance  provided  for  Him  in  the  house  of  a  poor  car- 
penter. The  Eternal  Father  did  not  will  that  His  Son 
should  be  fed  in  a  miraculous  manner,  as  many  great 
saints  of  both  the  old  and  new  covenants  have  been; 
neither  did  He  deem  it  fitting  to  preserve  His  temporal 
life  by  His  own  immediate  influx  and  action,  as  He  com- 
municates to  Him  His  Eternal  Life  in  His  own  Bosom, 
where  He  is  begotten  from  all  eternity.  But  He  desired 
that  Joseph  should  have  the  glory  of  providing  for  Him 
who  provides  for  the  necessities  of  all  creatures.  As  the 
Eternal  Father  engenders  the  Son  of  His  own  substance, 
it  was  meet  that  Joseph,  whom  He  had  called  to  a  par- 
ticipation of  His  Paternity,  should  maintain  the  life  of 
Jesus  through  himself  personally,  not  instrumentally 
through  others,  and  that  he  should  employ  all  his  dili- 
gence, devote  all  his  labours,  and  consume  his  whole 
strength  in  supplying  the  Saviour's  needs.  The  Mother 
of  the  Incarnate  Word  was  exempted  from  the  pains  of 
childbirth  in  bringing  her  Son  into  the  world,  but  Joseph 
was  to  suffer  much  by  his  continual  toil  in  preserving  the 
Divine  Infant's  life.  The  milk  with  which  the  Virgin 
fed  Him  while  a  babe,  she  received,  as  the  Church  sings, 
from  Heaven ; 2  it  cost  this  sovereign  maiden  nothing ; 
but  Joseph  was  subjected  to  great  fatigues  for  many 
years  in  order  to  relieve  the  extreme  poverty  of  his 
Foster-Son.  To  increase  His  strength  he  weakened  his 
own  ;  so  that  he  might  have  said,  like  the  holy  Precursor, 
"He  must  increase,  but  I  must  decrease".  Marvel  of 
marvels !  this  great  saint  received  into  his  arms  a  poor 
and  necessitous  God,  who  deigned  to  be  dependent  on 
him  for  His  corporeal  food.  Joseph  shared  with  his 

1  Epist.  xxii.  ad  Eustochium. 
2  "  Virgo  lactabat  ubere  de  ccelo  pleno." 

310  ST.    JOSEPH. 

august  spouse  the  glory  of  nourishing  Him ;  she,  of  her 
own  substance,  and  he  of  his  substantial  strength.  Thus 
they  combined  in  feeding  and  sustaining  this  Lamb  of 
God  against  the  day  of  sacrifice,  that  He  might  be  able 
to  bear  that  tremendous  weight  of  suffering  to  which  the 
Eternal  Father  had  sentenced  Him  for  the  love  of  us, 
Thy  laborious  steps,  O  great  saint,  thy  painful  journey- 
ings,  will — so  God  has  decreed — be  the  means  of  enabling 
this  Divine  Victim  to  walk,  and,  before  long,  to  tread  the 
hills  and  valleys  of  Juda  and  the  streets  of  Jerusalem, 
there  to  publish  the  glad  tidings  of  salvation.  See  this 
Adorable  Infant  stretching  forth  His  little  Hands,  the 
Hands  that  made  and  fashioned  the  universe,  to  ask 
bread  of  Joseph !  All  creatures  raise  their  eyes  to 
Heaven  for  sustenance :  "All  wait  upon  Thee  to  give 
them  food  in  season".1  But  this  Sovereign  Provider 
wills,  O  great  saint,  to  seek  from  thy  hands  His  own 
aliment.  When  God,  of  old,  desired  to  manifest  His 
supreme  and  majestic  independence,  He  said,  "  If  I  were  " 
hungry,  I  would  not  tell  thee  " ; 2  but,  0  glorious  Joseph, 
when  the  self-existent  God  declared  this,  He  made  an 
exception  in  regard  to  thee ;  for  the  eyes  of  the  Incarnate 
Word  were  to  look  to  thee  one  day,  and  during  many 
days,  with  confidence  for  His  daily  bread.  The  royal 
prophet  confessed  that  God  needed  not  his  goods,8  and 
for  this  very  reason  acknowledged  Him  as  his  God  ;  but 
thou,  O  incomparable  Joseph,  wilt  know  the  Incarnate 
God  by  the  need  He  vouchsafes  to  have  of  thee,  thou 
wilt  in  this  sign  behold  and  acknowledge  His  incom- 
prehensible goodness,  His  unfathomable  love,  His  infinite 

The  second  office  which  the  Doctors  of  the  Church 
recognise  in  Joseph  is  that  of  the  preceptor  and  teacher 

1  Psalm  ciii.  27.  2  Psalm  xlix.  12. 

3  Psalm  xv.  1. 

HIS   OFFICES.  311 

of  the  Infant  God.1  The  Saviour  of  the  world,  from  an 
excess  of  His  infinite  humility,  willed  in  the  first  years  of 
His  temporal  life  to  manifest  Himself  with  all  the  feeble- 
ness and  infirmities  of  childhood;  for  which  reason, 
albeit  He  was  the  Eternal  Word,  He  delayed  speaking 
articulately,  for,  as  the  prophet  Isaias,  referring  to  the 
future  Messias,  typically  represented  by  the  child  whom 
the  prophetess  bore,  gives  us  to  understand,  there  would 
be  a  time  in  which  the  Divine  Child  should  not  be 
able  to  pronounce  the  name  of  father  or  mother.2  It  was 
needful,  therefore,  that  Joseph  should  act  as  instructor  to 
Him  who  knew  everything.  "  Oh !  with  what  sweet 
delight  did  Joseph  hear  the  stammerings  of  the  Infant," 
.says  St.  Bernard.3  Preceptors  and  doctors  explain  the 
truth  to  their  disciples,  but  our  saint  was  to  teach  the 
very  Truth  to  explain  Itself.  The  Divine  Saviour 
humbled  Himself  to  ask  light  when  deliberating  on  any 
question,  as  if  this  had  been  necessary  to  the  Increated 
Wisdom,  and  He  was  pleased  to  think  it  no  disgrace  to 
His  Adorable  Person  to  assume  the  appearance  of 
ignorance,  seeing  that  He  had  taken  upon  Himself  the 
very  likeness  of  a  sinner.  This  humility  moved  Him,  as 
many  learned  writers  have  held,  to  ask  counsel  of  Joseph, 
follow  his  advice,  and  receive  instructions  from  him 
which  to  others  would  have  been  useful,  but  which  He 

1  "  Joseph  was  nurse  and  preceptor  to  Christ  the  Lord  in  His 
infancy." — Peres,  Episcop.  Urgellen,  in  Matthceum,   cap.   xxxviii. 
St.  Bonaventura  calls  Joseph  "pater  educativus,"  in  Lucam,  cap.  i., 
and  St.  Cyril  Hieros.,  "  director  Christi,"  Catech.  vii. 

2  Chap.  viii.  4.     "  Before  the  child  know  to  call  his  father  and  his 
mother,  the  strength  of  Damascus  and  the  spoils  of  Samaria  shall 
be  taken  away  before  the  King  of  the  Assyrians."     If  this  passage 
be  compared  with  verses  14-16  in  the  preceding  chapter,  it  will 
be  evident  that  this   child  represents,  in  parable,   Him  who  is 
directly  spokon  of  as  Emmanuel,  whom  a  Virgin  shall  conceive 
and  bring  forth.     In  the  figure  there  used  :  "  before  the  child  know 
to  refuse  the  evil  and  choose  the  good,"  we  likewise  see  an  allusion 
to  the  gradual  manifestation  of  which  we  are  speaking. 

3  Sermo  de  S.  Joseph. 

312  ST.    JOSEPH. 

could  not  need,  and  this  with  so  much  docility  that 
was  hereafter  to  be  regarded  as  the  apprentice  of  a 
artificer.1  Only  once  did  Jesus  do  the  scribes  and  doctoi 
of  the  Law  the  honour  of  appearing  before  them  in  th< 
character  of  a  disciple,  but  on  Joseph  He  habitually 
bestowed  it  when  He  willed  that  he  should  teach  Him, 
children  are  taught  by  frequent  repetitions,  and  shoul< 
give  Him  His  first  lessons  in  comportment  and  in  virtw 
Only  once  in  His  life  did  the  Saviour  humble  Himself 
receive  consolation  from  an  angel,2  but  never  did  He 
receive  instruction  from  any  of  these  blessed  spirits. 
To  Joseph  alone,  in  conjunction  with  His  Blessed 
Mother,  was  this  marvellous  honour  reserved.  All  the 
parental  rights  which  she  possessed  were  shared  in  their 
entirety  by  Joseph,  and  he  had  besides,  as  we  have  seen,  I 
those  which  specially  belong  to  the  father  and  head  of 
the  family  ;  and  the  father  is  by  right  the  teacher  and 
instructor  of  his  child. 

Most  true  it  is  that  our  saint  could  teach  the  God-Man 
nothing  which  He  did  not  already  know,  since  He  was 
full  of  knowledge  from  the  first  instant  of  His  conception, 
but  this  Sun  of  Justice,  infinitely  luminous  in  Himself, 
did  not  choose  to  shine  before  men  save  in  proportion  as 
He  grew  in  age  and  acquired  knowledge  in  an  experi- 
mental and  practical  manner  like  other  children.  It  is  a 
deeply  mysterious  subject  which  we  can  never  fathom, 
but  we  must  remember  that  St.  Luke  expressly  says  (ii.  52) 
that  Jesus  "advanced  in  wisdom  and  age,"  using  the  same 
word  to  denote  both  growths,  the  former  of  which  was 
certainly  a  real  growth.  He  does  not  say  He  advanced 
in  age,  and  assumed  the  semblance  of  advance  in  wisdom, 
but  He  advanced  in  wisdom  and  age.  Thus  we  have 
Scriptural  authority  for  believing  that  our  Lord  willed 
to  learn  from  father  and  mother  like  other  children  in  a 

1  St.  Matthew  xiii.  55  ;   St.  Mark  vi.  3. 
2  St.  Luke  xxii.  43. 

HIS   OFFICES.  313 

true,  though  inscrutable  sense.1  Oh,  the  incomparable 
humility  of  the  God-Man  !  Oh,  the  adorable  love  by 
which  He  sought  in  all  things  possible  to  assimilate 
Himself  to  us,  His  brethren  !  But  what  an  honour  was 
awarded  to  Joseph  to  be  the  master  and  teacher  of  God 
manifest  in  the  flesh  !  And,  if  this  be  true,  how  high  a 
right  to  the  title  of  father  of  Jesus  did  our  saint  thus 
acquire !  Those  who  instruct  others  are  held  to  acquire 
over  them  thereby  paternal  rights,  because  the  communi- 
cation of  light  and  knowledge  to  a  spirit  is  similar,  in  its 
order,  to  the  communication  of  natural  life  to  a  body.  A 
created  spirit  never  created  another  spirit,  but  it  can 
introduce  its  own  thoughts  and  sentiments  into  one  less 
highly  gifted  by  an  infusion  of  light  and  knowledge, 
which  is  a  species  of  spiritual  generation.  The  Angel  of 
the  Schools  notes  that  St.  Paul  takes  the  name  of  father 
with  regard  to  those  Christians  whom  he  has  instructed.2 
God,  says  the  Apostle,  is  the  origin  of  all  paternity 
in  heaven  as  well  as  in  earth.3  Hence  St.  Thomas  con- 

1  The  following  passage  in  an  article  on  the  "  Sacrament  of  the 
Dying,"  communicated  by  the  Kev.  W.  Humphrey,  S.J.,  to  the 
"  Month  "  for  August,  1887,  is  so  much  to  the  point,  that  the  writer 
is  glad  to  quote  it  in  confirmation  of  the  view  which  has  been  put 
forward  in  the  text.  After  speaking  of  our  Lord's  knowledge,  both 
divine  and  human,  Father  Humphrey  adds,  "  But  besides  His 
knowledge  as  He  is  Father  in  the  human  family  of  God's  children 
by  adoption,  He  has  a  knowledge  which  He  acquired  by  becoming 
their  Elder  Brother,  and  by  being  in  all  things  human,  made  like 
unto  His  brethren  according  to  the  flesh.  This  knowledge  He 
gained  for  Himself.  He  gathered  it  gradually  day  by  day.  He 
earned  it  by  experience.  He  would  know  what  is  in  man,  and 
know  it,  not  only  as  perfectly  as  does  any  man,  but  in  that  way  in 
which  it  is  known  to  men.  He  would  explore  human  nature  for 
Himself  throughout  its  length  and  breadth.  For  this  cause  did  He 
will  to  be  made  of  a  woman,  and  to  be  made  under  that  universal  law 
under  which  He  found  mankind  lying.  To  the  law  of  sin  He  could 
not  subject  Himself ;  that  is  to  say,  He  could  not  make  the  guilt  of 
sin  His  own.  But,  short  of  this  divine  impossibility  to  the  Divine 
Omnipotence,  He  would  subject  Himself  to  the  law  under  which 
human  sinners  lay."  The  learned  writer  proceeds  to  apply  this 
truth  in  a  most  consolatory  manner  to  our  Lord's  human  com- 
passion, but  enough  has  been  quoted  for  the  purpose  in  view. 
2  1  Cor.  iv.  15.  3  Ephes.  iii.  15. 

314  ST.    JOSEPH, 

dudes  that  some  of  the  angels  are  entitled  to  the  appella- 
tion of  father  with  respect  to  other  angels,  because  they 
communicate  their  superior  light  to  those  who  have  less,1 
as  a  master  may  be  called  the  father  of  his  disciples. 
Jeremias  was  called  the  father  of  the  people  of  Israel  2 
because  he  taught  them  the  law  of  God ;  and  Moses 
calls  Jubal  "  the  father  of  them  that  play  upon  the  harp 
and  the  organs,"  3  because  he  was  the  first  musician  who 
taught  men  that  art.  We  must  acknowledge,  then,  that, 
since  Joseph  was  externally  the  instructor  of  the  Saviour, 
as  if  He  had  needed  all  the  lessons  which  he  imparted 
to  Him,  it  would  be  unjust  to  deny  to  him  the  dignity  of 
father  of  Jesus. 

The  third  office  which  had  been  committed  to  Joseph 
was  that  of  tutor  or  guardian  of  the  Incarnate  Word, 
who  was  always  an  orphan  upon  earth,  and  much  more 
so  than  any  ever  were  ;  for  other  orphans  possessed,  at 
least  for  a  brief  space,  those  of  whom  they  were  the 
natural  offspring  ;  not  so  Jesus,  He  was  an  orphan,  not 
by  accident,  or  against  His  will,  as  are  those  whom  death 
has  robbed  of  their  fathers,  but  He  was  so  by  choice, 
having  willed  to  be  born  on  earth  of  a  mother,  with  no 
father  according  to  the  flesh,  even  as  He  had  eternally 
been  begotten  in  Heaven  from  all  eternity  by  a  Father 
without  mother.  None  the  less  this  Divine  Pupil,  who 
to  show  His  love  for  us  deprived  Himself  of  a  father,  was 
pleased  to  provide  Himself  with  a  tutor  or  guardian,  and 
clearly  made  known  this  His  will  to  the  object  of  His 
choice.  Every  word  of  Scripture  is,  so  to  say,  redolent 
of  meaning,  often  of  many  meanings.  We  might  almc 
have  presumed  that  so  it  would  be,  but  the  quotations 
made  by  the  Evangelists  from  the  Books  of  the  01 
Testament,  and  the  applications  of  them  which  in  man] 
instances  we  should  scarcely  have  ventured  on  witho; 

1  Summa,  p.  i.  q.  xlv.  a.  5.  -  Jeremias  xxxi.  9. 

3  Gen.  iv.  21. 

HIS   OFFICES.  315 

their  authority,  place  this  beyond  a  doubt.  We  may, 
therefore,  believe  that  St.  Matthew  insinuates  this  truth 
when  recording  the  angel's  words  :  "  Take  the  Child," 
and  may  attribute  a  special  meaning  to  them  with  refer- 
ence to  the  charge  laid  upon  Joseph.  And  as  the  Eternal 
Father  confided  to  him  the  Incarnate  Word,  He  gave 
him  at  the  same  time,  along  with  the  position  of  tutor  or 
guardian,  all  the  rights  which  appertained  thereto. 
Joseph  respectfully  and  lovingly  accepted  the  office,  and 
we  find  him  always  perfectly  fulfilling  its  obligations. 
He  speaks  for  Jesus,  he  negotiates  all  affairs  in  the  name 
of  the  Saviour,  and  promotes  all  His  interests  with 
unflagging  zeal.  The  appellation  of  tutor,  guardian,  or 
director  of  Jesus  is  constantly  given  by  the  Doctors  of 
the  Church  and  by  other  ecclesiastical  writers  of  eminence 
to  Joseph ;  and  they  see,  moreover,  in  the  peculiar  con- 
nection thus  divinely  established  between  him  and  the 
God-Man  one  of  the  strongest  grounds  for  awarding  to 
him  the  title  of,  father  of  Jesus.  St.  Cyril,  for  instance, 
says  that  our  saint  was  called  the  father  of  Jesus  because 
he  was  His  guardian  and  director ; l  and  the  glorious 
Albert  the  Great  does  not  express  himself  less  clearly 
when  he  says  Joseph  is  the  father  of  Jesus  because  he  is 
His  curator,  that  is,  His  guardian ; 2  and  we  might  quote 
many  other  high  authorities  who  have  seen  reason  to 
opine  that  the  care  and  the  labours  of  this  charitable 
guardian  elevated  him  to  the  dignity  of  a  father.  The 
Son  of  Sirach  has  declared  that  tutors  take  the  place  of 
fathers  to  those  of  whom  they  have  the  charge ; 8  and 
the  law  even  awards  to  guardians  a  portion  of  the  rights 
of  natural  parents.  St.  Augustine  said  that  Joseph 
merited  the  title  of  father  of  Jesus  more  than  do  other 
fathers  in  the  natural  order.4  His  line  of  reasoning 
deserves  notice.  It  is  notorious  that  a  man  to  whom 

1  Catech.  vii.         2  In  Matthceum,  cap.  i.         3  Ecclus.  iv.  10. 
4  Senno  xxxvi.  de  Div&rsis. 

316  ST.   JOSEPH. 

God  gives  a  son  born  of  a  Christian  marriage  is  esteemed 
to  be  more  worthy  of  the  title  of  father  than  those  whose 
children  have  been  the  fruit  of  a  union  unsanctified  by 
wedlock.  Chastity,  then,  he  argues,  contributes  to  the 
honour  of  paternity  and  confirms  the  justice  of  its  claims. 
Consequently  (he  continues),  if  any  one  should  have  a 
son  of  his  legitimate  spouse,  preserving  at  the  same  time 
inviolable  virginity,  as  Joseph  did  in  his  union  with  the 
Mother  of  God,  there  would  be  a  higher  reason  for  call- 
ing such  a  one  a  father  than  any  who  have  even  lived  in 
the  bonds  of  matrimony.  Such  is  the  opinion  of  the 
great  Bishop  of  Hippo.  And,  in  effect,  as  God  is  the 
idea  and  model  of  all  that  is  great  and  the  very  origin  of 
all  paternity,  it  is  evident  that  any  one  who  should 
possess  the  quality  and  rights  of  a  father  in  a  manner 
which  should  most  nearly  asssimilate  him  to  the  Eternal 
Father  would  in  proportion  have  the  highest  claim  to  be 
himself  called  a  father ;  and  such  was  Joseph's  case,  he 
was  the  virgin-father  of  Mary's  Son. 

Joseph,  then,  was  a  supernatural  father,  and  this  con- 
sideration at  once  leads  us  to  the  solution  of  the  questioi 
which  heads  this  chapter,  and   enables  us  to  perceive 
why  it  was  impossible  for  him  in  any  degree  or  form 
share  with  another  the  obligation  laid  upon  him  in  this 
character.     A  father,  in  the  order  of  nature,  is,  it  is  true 
bound  to  feed,  instruct,  and  take  care  of  his  son  ;  that  is 
he  is  bound,  so  far  as  in  him  lies,  to  provide  for  the 
support  and  education  of  his  child,  but  he  is  not  alwa^ 
or  by  any  means  bound  to  do  this  personally.     He  is  not 
bound  to  toil  for  that  purpose  if  in  any  other  mode  suffi- 
cient  provision   can   be   secured ;    and,    as   regards   the 
education  of  his  son,  one  of  the  strictest  obligations  of 
parent,  he  may  often  prudently  commit  his  instructioi 
to  substitutes,  either  because  he  has  not  the  necessary 
time  to  bestow  on  it  or  because  he  is  himself  not  capable 
of  fulfilling  this  duty  as  well  as  it  may  be  performed  b] 

HIS    OFFICES.  317 

others.  But  with  Joseph  all  this  was  different.  The 
charge  laid  upon  him  in  virtue  of  his  supernatural 
paternity  was  entirely  personal.  It  was  such  a  charge 
as  never  was  laid  on  any  other  parent ;  and  our  saint 
knew  this  well,  and  estimated  his  duties  accordingly. 
Jesus  was  to  be  fed  by  the  labour  of  his  hands,  He  was 
to  be  taught  and  trained  by  him  exclusively.  He  and 
His  Blessed  Mother  were  to  be  cared  for,  protected,  and 
guarded  by  Joseph  alone.  "  Take  the  Child  and  His 
Mother :  "  this  was  his  commission,  and  he  could  not 
have  satisfied  its  obligations  under  the  hospitable  roof  of 
Aphrodisius.  Jesus  would  there  have  been  supported 
without  his  labour,  He  would  have  necessarily  come  in 
the  way  of  other  influences  than  those  of  His  foster- 
father,  and  have  learned  in  a  measure  through  the 
medium  of  others.  He  would  also  have  been  inde- 
pendent, so  to  say,  of  the  protecting  arm  of  Joseph,  to 
whose  loving  embrace  and  care  He  had  been  consigned. 

(  318  ) 


HAVING  shortly  noticed  the  different  places  in  Egypt 
which  tradition  alleges  to  have  been  sanctified  by 
the,  at  least,  temporary  residence  of  the  Holy  Family,  we 
will  cast  a  glance  at  the  manner  of  their  life  in  the  village 
near  Heliopolis  where  they  finally  settled.  It  need 
scarcely  be  said  that  the  life  of  Mary  and  Joseph  was,  as 
everywhere  else,  a  combination  of  the  active  and  the  con- 
templative. Fervent  and  constant  prayer,  with  profound 
meditation  on  the  divine  mysteries,  was  their  daily  bread. 
Nor  had  they  to  go  far  to  find  God,  seeing  that  they  had 
Him  with  them  really  present  and  manifested  to  them  in 
the  Divine  Infant,  for  whoever  saw  Jesus  saw  the  Father, 
as  Christ  Himself  afterwards  taught.1  Yet,  notwith- 
standing their  continual  conversation  with  God,  Mary 
and  Joseph  had  to  suffer  much  in  Egypt ;  but  to  suffer 
for  and  with  Jesus  is  the  portion  and  the  delight  of  the 
saints.  They  suffered  the  privations  and  sadness  of  exile. 
Great,  indeed,  we  know,  is  the  desolation  experienced  by 
those  who  find  themselves  completely  isolated  in  foreign 
lands,  never  hearing  the  accents  of  their  own  native 
tongue,  severed  from  all  the  familiar  associations  which 
are  bound  up  with  the  habits  of  their  life,  and  separated 
from  every  friend  and  relative  whom  they  love. 

Moreover,  in  the  case  of  the  chosen  people,  who,  when 
banished    from    Palestine,    found    themselves   not    only 

1  St.  John  xiv.  9. 

ABODE    IN    EGYPT.  319 

among  foreigners  and  strangers,  but  among  the  idolatrous 
heathen,  strangers  not  to  themselves  alone  but  to  the 
God  whom  they  adored,  and  deprived  of  all  participation 
in  those  rites  and  sacrifices  which  were  the  acceptable 
worship  offered  to  Him  in  Judea,  this  desolation  became 
even  tenfold  greater.  It  was  a  well-known  fact  that  the 
Jews  reckoned  banishment  from  their  country  to  be  as 
great  an  evil  as  death  itself;  so  that  the  Eoman  his- 
torian, Tacitus,  observes  that  if  the  Jews  were  compelled 
to  leave  their  beloved  land,  they  feared  not  so  much  to 
die  as  to  live.  The  136th  Psalm  well  represents  the 
sorrow  of  the  Jews  in  exile.  "  By  the  rivers  of  Babylon, 
there  we  sat  and  wept,  when  we  remembered  Sion.  .  .  . 
If  I  forget  thee,  O  Jerusalem,  let  my  right  hand  be  for- 
gotten. Let  my  tongue  cleave  to  my  jaws,  if  I  do  not 
remember  thee,  if  I  make  not  Jerusalem  the  beginning  of 
my  joy."  What  must  have  been  the  feelings  of  Mary  and 
Joseph,  those  devout  observers  of  all  the  precepts  and 
ceremonial  of  the  Law,  when  the  great  and  holy  seasons 
recurred  at  which  crowds  were  flocking  to  Jerusalem  to 
pay  homage  to  the  God  of  Israel  in  His  Temple  !  Mary 
had  been  brought  up  in  the  precincts  of  the  Lord's  House, 
and  Joseph  for  years  had  exercised  his  trade  in  its  imme- 
diate vicinity,  and,  although  on  their  marriage  they  re- 
tired, by  divine  dispensation,  to  Nazareth,  we  know  from 
their  subsequent  practice  that  the  ninety  miles  which 
separated  them  from  the  Holy  City  would  not  have  been 
allowed  to  hinder  them  from  going  up  to  keep  the  solemn 
feasts  of  the  year. 

To  the  sadness  of  this  exile  were  added  the  straits  of 
poverty,  not  such  poverty  or,  rather,  indigence  as  con- 
strains its  sufferers  to  go  begging  from  door  to  door, 
•but  that  simple  and  honourable  poverty  which  renders 
daily  labour  needful  for  the  earning  of  daily  bread. 
Joseph  resumed  his  carpenter's  tools,  and  by  his  skilful 
work,  for  which,  we  are  told,  he  always  asked  a  very  mode- 

320  ST.    JOSEPH. 

rate  price,  procured  for  his  holy  spouse  and  for  himself 
what  was  needful  for  their  support.  An  ancient  tradition 
asserts  that  Joseph  never  ate  his  bread  for  nothing.  The 
Blessed  Virgin  also  diligently  plied  her  needle  and  her 
distaff,  and  the  result  of  their  united  labour  was  that 
something  always  remained  wherewith  to  succour  the 
poor  and  the  afflicted. 

Meanwhile,  all  their  care  was  centred  in  Jesus. 
Jesus  was  their  overflowing  consolation  in  exile,  their 
infinite  treasure  in  poverty,  their  sweet  repose  in  fatigue. 
Of  abstinence,  gentleness,  and  docile  obedience  the 
Divine  Infant  was  a  perfect  model;  and  His  love  of 
poverty  was  early  displayed ;  for  when  He  was  a  year 
old,  and  Mary,  thinking  it  time  to  release  Him  from 
His  swaddling-bands,  that  He  might  have  free  use  of  His 
limbs,  was,  with  Joseph's  acquiescence,  about  to  prepare 
for  Him  a  finely  wrought  vestment,  He  gave  her  in- 
teriorly to  understand  that  He  would  wear  nothing  but  a 
simple  tunic  of  wool,  woven  entirely  by  her  own  hands  ; 
and  this  tunic  was  to  last  Him  His  whole  life.  The 
Virgin  accordingly  began  to  weave  for  Him  that  seam- 
less garment  which  was  to  grow  with  His  growth,  and 
for  which  the  soldiers  were  to  cast  lots  on  Calvary.1 

It  was  a  great  joy  to  these  holy  spouses  when  they 
beheld  Him  begin  to  walk  alone,  and  far  greater  still 
when,  with  His  sweet  infantine  voice,  He  first  called 
Mary  by  the  tender  name  of  mother  and  Joseph  by  the 
endearing  name  of  father.  Their  hearts  bounded  with 
ineffable  gladness  at  the  sound,  a  gladness  so  great  that, 
to  temper  its  exuberance,  it  was  needful  for  them  to 
remember  the  prophecy  of  Simeon,  and  the  persecution 
of  Herod.  Far  removed  as  they  were  from  the  reach  of 

1  Tradition  relates  that  the  soldier  to  whom  the  tunic  fell  by  lot 
sold  it,  and,  according  to  Sigebert,  it  was  found  in  the  year  593  at 
Zafat.  The  inhabitants  of  Paris  and  of  Treves  have  severally 
claimed  its  possession,  but  Cornelius  a  Lapide  adjudges  it  to  Treves. 

ABODE    IN   EGYPT.  321 

the  tyrant's  fury,  it  did  not  cease  to  be  a  subject  of 
deepest  pain  to  them.  Even  in  those  days  when  news 
travelled  very  slowly,  and  when  the  cruelty  of  rulers 
caused  but  slight  surprise,  a  massacre  so  barbarous  as 
that  of  the  little  children  of  Bethlehem  must  have  excited 
a  very  general  horror,  and  the  report  can  scarcely  have 
failed  to  reach  Egypt.  Be  this  as  it  may,  the  Mother  of 
God,  we  may  believe,  was  sure  to  be  divinely  apprized  of 
what  had  happened,  and  to  have  shed,  along  with  her 
holy  spouse,  many  tears  of  compassion  over  these  inno- 
cent victims.  Not  but  they  knew  that  theirs  was  a  glory 
and  a  gain  unspeakable,  since  for  one  brief  moment  of 
pain  they  were  to  enjoy  an  eternity  of  bliss ;  still,  the 
human  heart  naturally  melts  with  pity  at  such  cruel 
deeds,  and  sanctity,  so  far  from  extinguishing  natural 
compassion,  intensifies  it ;  and  then  the  thought  of  the 
bereaved  and  distracted  parents  and,  above  all,  of  the 
unhappy  mothers,  sprinkled  with  the  blood  of  their  babes 
butchered  in  their  very  arms,  must  have  filled  the  tender 
hearts  of  Mary  and  Joseph  with  indescribable  sorrow. 

It  is  believed  that  the  holy  old  man,  Simeon,  and 
Anna  the  Prophetess  died  about  this  time,  not  so  much 
borne  down  by  the  weight  of  years  as  overcome  with  grief 
and  horror  at  Herod's  barbarities,  and  especially  the 
slaughter  of  the  babes  of  Bethlehem.  Many  saints  have 
thought  that  Zachary  was  put  to  death  by  Herod  be- 
cause he  had  concealed  his  little  son,  the  Baptist,  con- 
cerning whose  birth  wonderful  reports  had  been  circulated 
in  Jerusalem.  St.  Basil,  St.  Gregory  Nazianzen,  St. 
Epiphanius,  St.  Hypolitus  Martyr,  and  others,  whose 
opinion  Baronius  follows  in  his  Annals,  believed  that  it 
was  to  him  our  Lord  alluded  when  He  spoke  of  the 
Zacharias  who  had  been  slain  between  the  temple  and 
Ljhe  altar.1  Tertullian  says  that  for  a  long  time  the  stains 

1  St.  Matthew  xxiii.  35 ;  St.  Luke  xi.  51.     St.  Jerome  is  of  another 
>piiiion,  but  all  he  seeks  to  prove  is  that  the  Zacharias,  son  of 



of  his  blood  were  visible  on  the  stone  floor  of  the  Temple.1 
Elizabeth  went  and  dwelt  in  the  desert  with  her  son 
John  until  her  death,  which,  it  is  supposed,  preceded  the 
return  from  Egypt.  How  dear  that  sacerdotal  family 
was  to  Mary  and  Joseph,  bound  as  they  were  to  it  by  the 
ties  both  of  friendship  and  of  consanguinity,  we  well 
know.  Their  angels  did  not,  we  may  believe,  leave 
them  in  ignorance  of  events  so  deeply  interesting  to  their 
hearts.  Another  source  of  grief  must  have  been  the 
thought  that,  having  been  compelled  to  leave  Bethlehem 
suddenly  without  communication  with  any  of  their  friends 
and  relatives,  these  must  have  suffered  much  anxiety  on 
their  account,  fearing  possibly  that  the' Child  Jesus  might 
have  been  included  in  the  slaughter  of  the  Innocents. 

But,  with  all  these  causes  for  sadness,  Mary  and 
Joseph,  we  may  be  assured,  never  uttered  a  lamentation, 
still  less  a  murmur.  Nor  did  they  ever  invoke  the  divine 
justice  and  vengeance  on  the  author  of  all  these  woes. 
But  divine  justice  and  vengeance,  none  the  less,  overtook 
the  ferocious  tyrant,  who  persevered  to  the  last  in  his 
sanguinary  deeds,  even  putting  his  own  son,  Antipater, 
to  death  shortly  before  finishing  his  own  wretched  life, 
struck  with  a  torturing  disease  which  preyed  upon  and 
consumed  his  very  vitals.  If  the  news  of  his  death 
reached  the  ears  of  Joseph,  we  might,  judging  humanly, 
have  supposed  that  he  would  see  therein  the  removal  of 
the  one  obstacle  which  stood  in  the  way  of  the  safe 
return  of  the  Divine  Infant  to  Judea.  But  Joseph  would 
not  have  reasoned  thus,  or,  rather,  he  would  not  have 
reasoned  at  all,  but  have  waited  for  orders  from  on  high. 
The  angel  had  not  said,  "  Kemain  in  Egypt  until  Herod 
is  dead,  and  then  return,"  but,  "Be  thou  there  until  I 
shall  tell  thee  ".2  The  question  here  suggests  itself,  how 

Barachias,  spoken  of  by  our  Lord  was  not  the  father  of  St.  John  the 

1  In  Scorp.  c.  viii.  2  St.  Matthew  ii.  13. 

ABODE    IN    EGYPT.  323 

long  did  the  Holy  Family  abide  in  Egypt  ?  Scripture  is 
silent,  and  doctors  are  not  all  agreed  on  the  point.  It 
would  appear  from  history  that  Herod's  miserable  death 
occurred  about  a  year  and  a  half  after  the  massacre  of 
the  Innocents.  Hence  Epiphanius  concludes  that  the 
Holy  Family's  exile  lasted  two  years.  Nicephorus  ex- 
tends the  term  to  three  years.  But  it  must  be  allowed 
that  the  general  tradition  of  the  Church — and  such 
tradition  is  never  to  be  lightly  set  aside  even  when  pro- 
babilities seem  to  tell  against  it — allots  seven  years  to 
their  sojourn  in  Egypt.  St.  Francis  of  Sales,  indeed, 
is  of  opinion  that  it  was  five,  while  Baronius  even 
prolongs  their  absence  to  the  ninth  year.  Adopting, 
then,  the  common  tradition,  we  are  naturally  disposed 
to  ask  why  the  summons  of  the  angel  was  so  long 
delayed.  Not  that  we  can  expect  to  obtain  any  precise 
reply,  but  some  possible  reasons  to  account  for  it  may 
be  suggested  in  the  way  of  surmise.  Herod  had  divided 
his  kingdom  amongst  his  three  remaining  sons  into  four 
parts,  under  the  name  of  Tetrarchies,  allotting  two  por- 
tions in  Judea  to  Archelaus — forbidding  him,  however, 
to  assume  the  title  of  king  until  authorised  by  Eome, — 
one  to  Herod  Antipas  in  Galilee,  and  one  in  Ituria  and 
Trachonitis  to  Philip.  Now,  Archelaus  too  closely 
resembled  his  father  in  pride  and  a  capricious  tyrannical 
temper  to  render  the  life  of  Jesus  safe  were  He  to  return 
into  Judea  at  once.  The  son  of  Herod  must  have  been 
well  acquainted  with  all  that  had  so  recently  occurred, 
and,  should  it  have  reached  his  ears  that  the  Child  whom 
the  Magi  had  adored  as  King  of  the  Jews  had  escaped 
the  slaughter  of  the  babes  in  Bethlehem,  he  would  have 
been  seized  with  the  same  ferocious  desire  to  destroy  Him 
as  had  possessed  his  father.  The  angel's  mission  may, 
therefore,  have  been  delayed  until  matters  of  serious 
importance  as  regarded  his  position  should  have  diverted 
the  thoughts  of  Archelaus  into  other  channels  and  ab- 

324  ST.    JOSEPH. 

sorbed  his  attention,  as  the  dissatisfaction  which  he  gave 
his  Eoman  masters  and  the  complaints  raised  against 
him  by  his  subjects  must  surely  have  done. 

Time  also  in  the  divine  decrees  may  have  been  deemed 
necessary  for  completing  the  high  mission  of  the  Holy 
Family  in  Egypt.  Jesus,  taking  refuge  among  the  idola- 
trous Gentiles,  began  to  shadow  forth  even  then  what 
was  to  be  manifested  hereafter.  He  began,  with  Mary 
and  Joseph,  to  do  what  He  was  afterwards  to  commission 
His  Apostles  to  do.  He  had  come  first  to  the  Jews,  but, 
as  they  would  not  receive  Him  and  would  have  persecuted 
Him  even  to  death,  He  had  passed  over  to  the  Gentiles, 
and  fixed  His  abode  with  them,  preaching  the  doctrines 
of  truth  and  opening  to  all  the  way  of  salvation.  Jesus, 
therefore,  did  not  leave  Egypt  until  He  had  fulfilled  His 
mission,  that  of  commencing,  even  while  yet  a  child,  to 
illuminate  these  unhappy  idolaters  sitting  in  darkness 
and  the  shadow  of  death.  He,  the  Sun  of  Justice,  came 
to  the  so-called  City  of  the  Sun  to  give  it  the  true  light. 
Isaias,  who  had  foretold  the  coming  of  Christ  into  Egypt, 
had  also  said  that  there  should  be  "five  cities  in  the 
land  of  Egypt  speaking  the  language  of  Canaan,  and 
swearing  by  the  Lord  of  Hosts,"  and  that  "one  of  them" 
should  "be  called  the  City  of  the  Sun".1  Without  this 
preparation  to  accept  the  Gospel  which  the  Holy  Eamily 
was  to  effect,  Egypt  might  not  have  been  so  docile  as  it 
was  hereafter  to  the  teaching  of  the  Apostles.  The 
blessing  it  had  at  that  time  received  was  to  be  fruitful  of 
good  and  to  people  the  immense  solitudes  along  the  Nile 
with  holy  anchorites  and  hermits,  such  as  the  Pauls,  the 
Macariuses,  the  Anthonys,  and  countless  others,  so  that 
St.  Augustine  was  fain  to  declare  that  Egypt  through 
them  had  become  an  image  of  Heaven,  and  the  temple 
of  the  whole  world.  Then  were  the  glorious  promises  of 
the  prophet  fulfilled:  "In  that  day  there  shall  be  an 

1  Chap.  xix.  18. 

ABODE    IN   EGYPT.  325 

altar  of  the  Lord  in  the  midst  of  the  land  of  Egypt,  and 
a  monument  of  the  Lord  at  the  borders  thereof.  It  shall 
be  for  a  sign  and  for  a  testimony  to  the  Lord  of  Hosts  in 
the  land  of  Egypt.  For  they  shall  cry  to  the  Lord 
because  of  the  oppressor,  and  He  shall  send  them  a 
Saviour  and  a  Defender  to  deliver  them.  And  the  Lord 
shall  be  known  to  Egypt,  and  the  Egyptians  shall  know 
the  Lord  in  that  day,  and  shall  worship  Him  with  sacri- 
fices and  offerings;  and  they  shall  make  vows  to  the 
Lord,  and  perform  them."1  This  prophecy  of  Isaias  was, 
as  we  say,  to  receive  a  very  remarkable,  though  a  partial, 
fulfilment,  in  the  evangelisation  of  Egypt  in  the  early 
centuries  of  the  Church  and  its  fruitfulness  in  saints,  in 
followers  after  perfection,  both  men  and  women,  and  in 
courageous  champions  of  the  faith :  we  say  a  partial 
fulfilment,  for,  like  many  other  similar  predictions,  it 
seems  to  have  a  wider  scope,  and  to  await  a  more  com- 
plete accomplishment,  a  subject  on  which  we  need  not 
here  enter, 

Jesus  from  His  tenderest  infancy  displayed  such  divine 
beauty  and  grace  in  His  countenance,  in  His  every  look, 
and  in  His  whole  behaviour,  that  the  mere  sight  of  Him 
ravished  all  hearts.  Meanwhile,  His  all-powerful  prayer 
was  ascending  continually  for  them  to  the  Eternal 
Father.  He  spoke  but  little,  but  those  who  heard  His 
few  simple  words  marvelled,  as  men  afterwards  were  to 
do  at  the  words  of  grace  which  proceeded  from  His  lips, 
and  were  drawn  to  practise  His  counsels  and  cast  away 
the  vices  of  heathendom.  The  children  and  the  women 
of  Matarieh  were  the  first  to  know  this  wonderful  and 
heavenly  Child ;  the  report  spread,  and  then  both  men 
and  women  came  to  see  Him,  not  only  from  the  imme- 
diate neighbourhood,  but  from  other  towns  and  vill  ages 
Jesus  had  two  Apostles  to  aid  Him  in  His  mission,  Mary, 
and  Joseph ;  and  who  can  calculate  the  power  and  the 

1  Chap.  xix.  19-21. 

326  ST.    JOSEPH. 

grace  that  accompanied  their  words  and  their  every  act  ? 
Whoever,  indeed,  beheld  the  Divine  Infant  and  then 
lifted  up  their  eyes  to  look  at  Mary  and  Joseph,  said  in 
their  hearts,  "These  are  truly  angels  of  Paradise". 
Doctors  have  gathered  from  Oriental  traditions  that  the 
Egyptian  women,  seeing  Mary  so  beautiful,  so  gracious, 
so  modest,  and  so  discreet,  conceived  a  great  love  for 
her,  and  numbers  of  them  would  come  to  visit  her  and 
bring  her  presents.  They  had  such  confidence  in  her, 
it  is  said,  that  in  their  bodily  infirmities  and  other 
afflictions  they  had  recourse  to  her  assistance,  and  in 
their  sorrows  sought  and  found  consolation  from  her  lips. 
They  would  also  bring  their  sick  children  to  her,  and  she 
would  gently  lay  her  hand  on  their  heads,  or  would  place 
them  near  to  her  Divine  Son,  and  they  were  healed.  The 
Saracens,  afterwards,  were  wont  to  say  that  no  woman 
on  whom  Mary  laid  her  hand  ever  died  in  childbirth.1 

With  respect  to  miracles  ascribed  by  early  traditioi 
to  Jesus  during  His  infancy,  some  critics  have  urged  ii 
objection  the  assertion  of  St.  John  the  Evangelist,  tht 
the  miracle  of  changing  the  water  into  wine  at  Cana 
Galilee  was  the  first  miracle  which  our  Lord  perforrru 
But  there  seems  no  reason  for  thus  rigidly  interpreting 
this  text,  which,  from  its  very  wording,  may  more  readily 
be  taken  to  mean  that  this  was  the  first  public  miracle 
which  Jesus  worked  before  His  disciples  to  prove  His 
divine  mission  and  manifest  His  glory.     Nothing,  there- 
fore, says  Maldonatus,  need   hinder  us  from   believing 
that  Jesus  had  privately  performed  miracles  previously.2 

It  may  well  be  imagined  that  the  Blessed  Virgin  took 
occasion  of  the  resort  to  her  of  these  simple  heathen 
women  to  instruct  them  in  the  knowledge  of  the  true 
God  and  in  the  practice  of  virtue,  and  bid  them  teach 

1  Jacobus  h  Valentia,  Tractat.  in  Magnificat ;  Benedict  XIII. 
Sermo  xliv. 

2  Comment,  in  Joanncm,  cap.  ii. 


the  same  to  their  children ;  and  that  she  would  also  tell 
them  that  the  Kingdom  of  Heaven  was  at  hand.  As  for 
her  holy  spouse,  Joseph,  the  great  St.  Hilary  holds  him 
to  be  an  Apostle,  because  he  was  commissioned  to  carry 
the  Word  of  God  to  the  Gentiles,  but  not  only  was  he 
thus  an  Apostle  in  figure,  but  he  himself  (as  already 
noticed)  was  to  take  his  part  in  the  work  of  evangelisa- 
tion ;  nay,  the  learned  Cardinal  of  Cambrai  has  declared 
that  he  merited  to  be  styled  the  first  Evangelist,  or 
preacher  of  the  Gospel.  "  The  angel,"  he  says,  "  evan- 
gelised the  shepherds,  holy  Joseph  publicly  and  solemnly 
evangelised  all;"1  and,  doubtless,  he  had  many  oppor- 
tunities of  gaining  disciples  to  Jesus  in  the  practice  of  his 
trade  among  the  neighbouring  villages.  In  Heliopolis 
he  would  be  well  known,  and  probably  the  fame  of  his 
skill  and  his  personal  merit  would  cause  him  to  be  sent 
for  even  from  Memphis  and  other  places.  Everywhere  he 
would  profit  by  the  opportunity  to  speak  of  the  goodness 
of  God,  of  the  blindness  of  those  who  adore  idols,  and  to 
tell  the  Egyptians  that  soon  a  new  light  would  appear 
to  show  the  world  its  error ;  that  they  must  therefore 
turn  themselves  to  the  true  God,  and  observe  His  holy 
laws  :  these  and  similar  things  he  would  say  to  them, 
and  thus  prepare  the  way  of  the  Lord  in  those  regions, 
and  sow  the  seed  which  was  to  bear  fruit  hereafter  a 

But  now  the  time  was  come  when  the  Holy  Family 
was  to  be  recalled  from  exile.  One  night,  as  Joseph  was 
taking  repose  after  his  labours,  the  Archangel  Gabriel 
appeared  to  him  once  more,  and  bade  him  arise  and  take 
the  Child  and  His  Mother,  and  go  into  the  land  of  Israel ; 
for  they  were  dead  who  had  sought  the  Child's  life.2  It 
will  be  observed  that  the  angel  does  not  say,  "Herod  is 
dead,"  but,  "  they  are  dead  who  sought  the  life  of  the 
Child "  ;  giving  to  understand  that  others  besides  the 
1  Tract,  de  S.  Joseph.  2  St.  Matthew  ii.  20. 

328  ST.    JOSEPH. 

tyrant  had  been  implicated  in  the  design  to  destroy 
Jesus.  St.  Jerome  is  of  opinion  that  Herod  had 
adherents  among  the  priests  and  scribes  who  combined 
with  him  in  plotting  against  the  new-born  King.  Nor 
does  this  seem  incredible,  since  we  read,  in  the  Gospel  of 
St.  Mark,1  that  "  the  Pharisees  going  out  immediately  " 
— that  is,  after  witnessing  one  of  our  Lord's  miracles — 
"  made  a  consultation  with  the  Herodians  against  Him, 
how  they  might  destroy  Him,"  one  vile  purpose  thus 
uniting  two  most  opposite  sects.  Herod,  then,  had  his 
satellites,  probably,  even  in  the  sanctuary,  and,  while 
they  lived,  the  danger  may  still  have  been  too  great  to 
allow  of  return.  We  have  already  alluded  to  other 
reasons  which  may  have  rendered  delay  desirable  even 
after  Herod's  death,  which,  if  it  be  true  that  the  Holy 
Family  abode  seven  or  even  five  years  in  Egypt,  must 
have  occurred  some  considerable  time  before  the  angel's 
appearance  to  Joseph,  and,  in  particular  (as  we  have 
suggested),  the  sanguinary  disposition  of  Archelaus,  his  ' 

This  is  the  third  time  that  we  find  an  angel  appearing 
to  Joseph  as  the  head  of  the  Family  to  whose  tutelage 
and  direction  the  Mother  of  God  and  the  Incarnate  Word 
Himself  were  subjected.  Jesus  was  now  able  to  speak, 
and  might  have  signified  that  the  time  was  come  for 
their  return ;  for  was  He  not  God  and  the  Lord  of  all  ? 
But  no,  He  says  not  a  word,  and  interferes  no  more 
than  any  ordinary  child  of  His  age  would  have  done  witl 
the  plans  and  movements  of  its  parents.  As  this  journey 
was  not  a  flight,  it  was  not  needful  that  the  Holy  Family 
should  depart  before  the  dawn.  The  Gospel,  as  St 
Jerome  remarks,  says  nothing  about  night  or  darknt 
and  he  sees  in  this  return,  begun  in  the  full  light  of  day, 
a  type  of  what  shall  be  at  the  end  of  this  age,  when 
Jews  shall  be  illuminated  by  faith  and  openly  receive  Chrisl 
1  Chap.  iii.  6. 


the  Lord.  Joseph  and  Mary,  always  full  of  benign 
courtesy  and  gratitude,  would  not,  we  may  be  sure,  set 
out  without  bidding  adieu  to  their  kind  neighbours. 
Such  is  the  opinion  of  Benedict  XIII.,  and  St.  Bona- 
ventura  says  that  some  Egyptian  matrons,  greatly 
attached  to  our  Blessed  Lady  and  her  Divine  Child, 
insisted  on  accompanying  her  a  certain  distance  on  the 
road.  The  Holy  Family,  probably,  returned  by  the  way 
that  they  had  come,  but  Scripture  is  silent,  and  even 
tradition  has  less  to  say  on  this  subject  than  it  has  regard- 
ing the  flight.  A  pious  belief,  if  no  more>  has,  however, 
been  entertained  by  not  a  few  as  to  a  meeting  with  John, 
the  future  Precursor,  in  the  desert,  where,  as  the  Gospel 
tells  us,1  he  lived  until  the  time  of  his  manifestation  to 
Israel.  P.  Domenico  Cavalca  gives  it  a  record  in  his 
Life  of  St.  John  the  Baptist,  but  what  amount  of  tradition 
may  exist  in  support  of  an  incident  on  which  the  devout 
imagination  loves  to  dwell  we  have  not  been  able  to 

It  is  evident  that  Joseph's  intention  was  to  settle  at 
Bethlehem,  an  intention  which,  as  we  have  seen  reason 
to  believe,  he  had  entertained  previous  to  the  exile  into 
Egypt ;  but  when  he  heard  that  Archelaus  reigned  in 
Judea  in  the  place  of  his  father,  Herod,  he  was  afraid  to 
go  thither.  Hence  we  incidentally  learn  two  things : 
first,  how  little  information  concerning  public  affairs 
had  reached  the  Holy  Family  in  their  retirement ;  nor 
need  this  be  any  matter  of  astonishment  to  us  when  we 
reflect  on  the  rareness  of  communication  in  those  days, 
and  on  the  widely  different  constitution  of  society,  which 
caused  its  limitation  in  great  measure  to  special  classes. 
Joseph  had  heard  nothing  from  the  poor  people  with 
whom  he  conversed,  and,  we  may  rely  upon  it,  he  never 
made  enquiries  or  went  in  search  of  news.  His  mes- 
sengers were  angels,  not  men;  and  he  calmly  awaited 
1  St.  Luke  i.  80. 

330  ST.    JOSEPH. 

their  orders  and  such  information  as  it  pleased  God 
they  should  convey  to  him.  In  the  second  place,  we 
learn  that  Joseph  was  aware  of  the  character  of  Arche- 
laus,  and  that  he  did  not  think  that  Jesus  would  be  safe 
in  his  vicinity.  Whether  or  not  this  would  have  been 
the  case,  it  had  been  so  ordained  in  the  divine  decrees 
that  Jesus  was  not  to  be  brought  up  at  Bethlehem,  but 
at  Nazareth.  While  Joseph  hesitated  and,  doubtless, 
prayed  for  guidance,  the  angel  appeared  to  him  for  the 
fourth  time  to  direct  him  how  to  act.  "  Being  warned  in 
sleep,"  we  are  told,1  "  he  retired  into  the  quarters  of 
Galilee.  And,  coming,  he  dwelt  in  a  city  called  Naza- 
reth :  that  it  might  be  fulfilled  which  was  said  by  the 
prophets,  that  He  shall  be  called  a  Nazarite." 

1  St.  Matthew  ii.  22,  23. 



HEEOD  ANTIPAS,  Tetrarch  of  Galilee,  was,  equally 
with  Archelaus,  the  son  of  Herod,  the  Ascalonite. 
But  his  mother  was  a  Jewess,  and  he  had  not,  like  Arche- 
laus, the  son  of  a  woman  of  Samaria,  inherited  the  san- 
guinary  temper  of  his  father.  True,  we  hear  in  the 
Gospel  of  his  vicious  and  immoral  life,  and  how,  to  keep 
his  rash  promise  to  a  dancer,  he  cut  off  the  head  of  John 
the  Baptist,  but  we  know  also  that  he  did  it  reluctantly; 
whereas  to  his  father,  Herod,  and  his  cruel  brother,  Arche- 
laus, the  shedding  of  blood  was  a  matter  of  supreme 
indifference ;  nay,  rather  one  might  say  it  was  a 
ferocious  propensity  and  passion.  Moreover,  he  would 
not  know  that  Jesus  dwelling  at  Nazareth  was  the  Child 
on  whose  account  the  Innocents  had  been  massacred. 
The  birth  of  the  Messias  was  by  the  prophet  Micheas 
associated  with  Bethlehem ;  and  no  one  would  have 
thought  of  seeking  Him  in  Nazareth.  Joseph  might, 
therefore,  by  returning  to  his  old  domicile  at  that  place, 
be  entirely  reassured  as  to  the  safety  of  the  Divine  Child. 
:No  doubt  God  could  have  protected  His  Son  from  all 
idanger  in  Bethlehem,  but  so  also  He  might  have  con- 
cealed Him  from  the  rage  of  Herod  without  sending  Him 
into  Egypt.  Archelaus,  however,  was  not  to  be  left  long 
in  possession  of  his  power,  being  dethroned  and  exiled  by 
the  Eoman  Emperor  ;  yet  it  did  not  please  God  on  that 
account  to  bid  Joseph  leave  Nazareth  and  take  up  his 
abode  at  Bethloheru;  for,  as  has  been  seen,  it  entered 

332  ST.    JOSEPH. 

into  the  designs  of  Divine  Providence  that  Jesus  should 
be  brought  up  at  Nazareth,  even  as  in  the  exile  into 
Egypt  a  double  purpose  was  fulfilled,  as  we  have  indi- 

It  has  been  a  question  with  commentators  as  to  where 
in  the  Old  Testament  we  are  to  seek  for  this  prediction  ; 
indeed,  the  difficulty  of  identifying  it  has  led  to  the  sup- 
position that  the  book  in  which  it  was  contained  was 
among  those  sacred  writings  which  have  been  lost.1 
But  undoubtedly  the  fact  was  as  St.  Matthew  affirms; 
Jesus  was  to  be  called  a  Nazarite,  and  never  to  lose  that 
name,  which  was  to  be  inscribed  on  His  Cross  :  "  Jesus  of 
Nazareth,  King  of  the  Jews  ".2  He  was  not  to  be  brought 
up  and  be  known  in  the  city  of  David  His  father,  nor  in 
the  neighbourhood  of  those  who  might  have  heard 
reports  of  the  glories  attending  His  birth.  He  was  to  be 
reared  in  obscure  and  despised  Nazareth,  so  despised  that 
Nathaniel,  as  we  know,  replied  to  Philip's  invitation  to 
come  and  see  Jesus,  the  predicted  Messias,  the  son  of' 
Joseph  of  Nazareth  :  "  Can  anything  of  good  come  from 
Nazareth?"3  and  the  Jews  afterwards,  reasoning  with 
those  who  said  He  was  the  Christ,  objected  :  "  Doth  the 
Christ  come  out  of  Galilee  ?  Doth  not  the  Scripture  say 
that  Christ  cometh  of  the  seed  of  David,  and  from  Beth- 
lehem, the  town  where  David  was?"4  So  it  pleased 
God,  in  His  secret  ways,  that  His  Son  might  at  once  be 
hidden  and  manifested;  manifested  to  those  who  were 
true  of  heart,  hidden  from  those  who  would  not  see,  and 
therefore  took  scandal  at  His  supposed  origin. 

1  Other  similar  instances  are  the  prophecy  of  Enoch,  quoted  by 
St.  Jude  (v.  14),  who  also  alludes  (v.  9)  to  the  contention  of  St. 
Michael  with  Satan  respecting  the  body  of  Moses,  which  is  not 
mentioned  elsewhere  in  Holy  Writ ;  but  both  these  may  have  been 
"  originally  known  by  revelation  and  transmitted  by  traditk 
See  notes  to  the  Douay  version  in  loc. 

2  St.  John  xix.  19.  3  St.  John  i.  45,  46. 

4  St.  John  vii.  41,  42. 


St.  Jerome,  however,  has  suggested  a  solution  of  the 
difficulty  by  showing  that  St.  Matthew  is  referring,  not  to 
the  precise  words  of  the  Sacred  Text,  but  to  their  sense  ; 
and,  in  confirmation  of  this  view,  he  notices  that  the 
Evangelist  says,  "  That  it  might  be  fulfilled  which  was 
said  by  the  prophets,"  not  naming  any  particular  prophet, 
as  he  would  otherwise  have  done ;  in  which  case  the  appli- 
cation of  the  prediction  must,  probably,  be  sought  in  the 
etymology  of  the  name  of  the  place  itself.  This  has 
received  various  interpretations,  and,  prominently,  that  of 
Flowery.  Now,  Jesus  was  the  Flower  of  the  Field,  and 
the  Flower  of  the  Rod  of  Jesse.  Hence  St.  Jerome, 
writing  to  Marcella,  says :  "  Let  us  go  to  Nazareth,  and 
there,  according  to  the  interpretation  of  its  name,  we 
shall  see  the  Flower  of  Galilee  ".  The  term  Nazarite  has 
also  been  considered  to  signify  holy,  separated,  or  set 
apart,  and  consecrated  by  God.  Accordingly,  we  read  of 
Samson,  who  was  a  figure  of  Jesus,  that  the  angel  declared 
he  "  was  to  be  a  Nazarite  of  God  from  his  infancy  and 
from  his  mother's  womb ;  and  begin  to  deliver  Israel 
from  the  hands  of  the  Philistines  ".*  In  this  sense  like- 
wise the  name  would  be  supremely  applicable  to  the 
Saviour  of  the  world. 

The  two  Evangelists,  St.  Matthew  and  St.  Luke,  both 
agree  in  stating  that  the  Holy  Family  returned  to  Naza- 
reth, and  dwelt  there,  the  latter  omitting  all  mention  of 
the  Flight  into  Egypt,  as  the  former  had  made  no  allusion 
to  the  Purification.  Having,  then,  conducted  the  Holy 
Family  back  to  Nazareth,  St.  Luke  sums  up  his  account  of 
the  boyhood  of  Jesus  in  these  few  words :  "  And  the 
Child  grew  and  waxed  strong,  full  of  wisdom,  and  the 
grace  of  God  was  in  Him".2  They  are  few  words,  but 
how  much  is  contained  in  them  !  We  have  already  com- 
mented on  expressions  used  a  few  verses  further  on  with 
reference  to  Jesus  advancing  in  wisdom  and  age,  when  it 
1  Judges  xiii.  5.  2  St.  Luke  ii.  40. 

334  ST.    JOSEPH. 

was  question  of  the  mode  in  which  our  Divine  Lord  con- 
descended to  make  progress  like  other  children.  Here, 
%then,  we  shall  only  notice  the  remarkable  words :  "the 
grace  of  God  was  in  Him  ".  Some  might  think  this  was 
little  to  say  of  One  who  was  Himself  the  very  source  of 
all  grace.  And  truly  so  He  was,  in  virtue  of  His  Divine 
Nature,  but  that  Divine  Nature  was  united  to  a  perfect 
human  nature,  perfect,  although  having  no  human 
personality.  He  was  "  perfect  God  and.  perfect  man,  of 
reasonable  soul  and  human  flesh  subsisting,"  to  use  the 
words  of  the  Athanasian  Creed.  Jesus,  then,  had  a 
human  soul,  the  recipient  of  grace  as  are  other  human 
souls,  only  the  Spirit  was  not  given  to  Him  by  measure. 
St.  Luke  would  seem  to  be  especially  the  Evangelist  of 
the  Humanity  of  the  Son  of  God,  which  needed  to  be  clearly 
proclaimed  as  well  as  His  Divinity.  Heresies  were  to 
assail  both.  Accordingly,  he  testifies  to  it  emphatically 
in  those  words :  "  the  grace  of  God  was  in  Him".  St. 
Luke  is  not  believed  to  have  personally  known  our  Lord, 
although  Epiphanius  seems  to  consider  that  he  was  a 
disciple  towards  the  close  of  the  life  of  Jesus.  Be  this  as 
it  may — and  it  is  by  no  means  the  common  opinion — he 
himself  does  not  pretend  to  relate  as  an  eye-witness,  but 
only  as  ' '  having  diligently  attained  to  all  things  from  the 
beginning  ".*  Yet  we  know  that,  although  he  had  thus 
carefully  collected  his  information  from  eye-witnesses,  he, 
equally  with  the  other  Evangelists,  wrote  by  the  inspira- 
tion of  the  Spirit  of  God ;  for  inspiration,  while  giving  light 
to  the  mind  of  the  writer,  guiding  him  in  the  selection  of 
the  materials  he  possesses  and  guarding  him  from  error 
in  his  statements,  does  not  preclude  the  use  of  the  natural 
faculties,  as  they  might  be  employed  by  other  historians 
in  the  collection  of  facts,  and  to  secure  accuracy.  "  He 
had  diligently  attained  to  all  things  from  the  beginning ; " 
that  is,  from  the  beginning  of  the  life  he  relates,  namely 
1  Chap.  i.  3. 


that  of  Jesus;  and  from  what  source  could  he  have 
learned  that  beginning  save  from  the  lips  of  Mary  her- 
self  ?  The  Annunciation,  the  Adoration  of  the  Shepherds, 
the  Visitation,  the  Purification,  and  the  Finding  of  Jesus 
in  the  Temple,  are  related  in  detail  by  St.  Luke,  and  by 
no  other  Evangelist ;  and  who  was  there  upon  earth  who 
could  have  communicated  these  things  to  him  but  the 
Blessed  Mother  of  God  herself,  she  of  whom  the  Eternal 
Word  had  taken  human  flesh  ? 

It  is  not  amiss  to  remind  ourselves  of  this,  for  it  helps 
to  throw  a  light  on  the  manner  in  which  Joseph  is  spoken 
of  in  this  Gospel.  That  manner  must  surely  reflect 
Mary's  wishes,  and  what  were  Mary's  wishes  at  any 
time  but  to  fulfil  His  will  of  whom  she  was  ever  the 
handmaid  as  well  as  the  mother?  Now  Joseph  is 
always  intimately  associated  with  Mary  by  this  Evan- 
gelist in  their  relationship  to  Jesus,  and  he  stands  alone 
in  using  the  common  term  "parents,"  in  speaking  of 
them.  This  was  the  case  in  relating  the  Presentation  of 
Jesus  in  the  Temple,  where  he  says  that  "  His  parents 
brought  in  the  Child  Jesus,  to  do  for  Him  according  to 
the  custom  of  the  Law  " ;  and  that  Simeon  blessed  them 
both,  as  has  been  already  noticed.  And  again,  after 
Simeon's  "  Nunc  dimittis,"  he  says  that  "  His  father  and 
mother  were  wondering  at  those  things  which  were 
spoken  concerning  Him," 1  giving  the  first  place,  as 
usual  in  common  parlance,  to  the  father.  We  have 
already  quoted  these  passages  when  relating  the  incidents 
of  the  Purification,  but  we  recall  them  now  as  showing 
the  light  in  which  Mary  desired  her  spouse  to  be  re- 
garded ;  and  that  light  must  undoubtedly  have  been  the 
true  one,  designed  by  God  Himself.  St.  Augustine — and 
he  does  not  stand  alone  among  the  Doctors  in  this  matter 
— observes  that  it  is  in  order  to  demonstrate  the  sublime 
dignity  of  Joseph  that  St.  Luke  puts  him  on  an  equality 
1  Chap  ii.  27,  33,  34. 

336  ST.    JOSEPH. 

with  Mary  in  calling  them  both  the  parents  of  Jesus. 
That  an  Evangelist,  who  knew  the  mystery  of  the  Incar- 
nation, having  himself  previously  narrated  the  Annuncia- 
tion of  the  angel  to  Mary,  should,  speaking  by  inspiration, 
use  this  language,  certainly  shows  that  Joseph  was — 
excluding  always  natural  generation — a  true  father ;  not 
a  mere  putative  father,  or  a  father  by  adoption  and  by 
law.  Since,  then,  he  was  not  a  father  in  the  ordinary 
sense,  that  is,  according  to  the  flesh,  he  must  have  been 
so  in  a  mystical  sense,  according  to  the  spirit ;  and  this 
is  why  St.  Augustine  frequently  repeats  that  Joseph  is  so 
much  the  more  truly  a  father  in  that  he  is  so  spiritually 
and  virginally;1  he  is  the  true  father  of  Jesus  according 
to  the  spirit,  as  Mary  is  His  true  mother  according  to  the 
flesh.  The  Evangelist  is,  therefore,  fully  justified  in 
calling  this  blessed  couple  conjointly  the  parents  of 

Mary  and  Joseph,  no  doubt,  resumed  their  old  occupa- 
tions in  their  humble  abode  at  Nazareth ;   in  addition 
to  which  they  had  now  to  provide  for  the  care  and  th 
education  of  the  Divine  Child.     He  had  been  pleased 
have  Himself  treated  as  other  children  of  His  nation,  by 
subjecting  Himself  to  all  the  rites  and  precepts  of  t 
Old  Law ;  it  is  not  surprising,  therefore,  if  Mary  an 
Joseph,  who   had  fulfilled  these   obligations  for  Him 
when,  being  an  infant,  He  was  unable  to  do  so  for  Him- 
self, should  continue,  in  proportion  as  His  age  increased 
and  permitted  it,  to  direct  and  instruct  Him  in  exercises 
of  piety — He  Himself  manifesting  such  to  be  His  desire 
— bringing  Him  up  in  accordance  with  the  precepts  of 
the  Law  given  to  Israel,  and  in  all  things  which  we 
conformable  and  suitable  to  their  own  condition  in  life 
This  would  appear  to  us  a  very  difficult  and  delica 
duty  for  Mary  and  Joseph  to  perform  towards  their  Son, 
so  as  at  once  worthily  to  correspond  to  the  office  with 
1  De  Concord.  Evang.  Serm.  li.  cap.  xx. 


which  they  were  charged,  and  duly   to   recognise   the 
dignity  of  that  Son. 

Some  observations  on  this  subject  which  Vincenzo 
de  Vit  makes  in  his  Life  of  St.  Joseph  l  are  worthy  of 
being  here  quoted.  Referring  to  this  difficulty,  he  is  of 
opinion  that  there  exists  in  the  very  disposition  of  human 
nature  itself  a  mode  of  conciliation.  "  It  is  an  observa- 
tion," he  says,  "  which  experience  daily  confirms,  that 
among  the  various  inclinations  which  it  has  pleased  the 
Creator  to  implant  in  our  human  nature,  there  are  two 
which  strikingly  manifest  themselves  in  children  from 
their  earliest  days  :  the  tendency  to  imitation  or  to  the 
reproduction  of  those  acts  which  they  see  performed  by 
those  who  surround  them ;  and  curiosity,  or  the 
desire  to  know  what  these  same  acts  signify.  Now, 
there  cannot  be  the  smallest  doubt  but  that  the  Child 
Jesus,  by  reason  of  His  human  nature,  must  have  been 
endowed  with  all  these  natural  qualities  in  their  fulness 
and  perfection,  in  virtue  of  which  Mary  and  Joseph 
would,  without  in  the  least  ignoring  who  He  truly 
was,  be  drawn,  as  it  were,  without  willing  it  and,  I  may 
even  add,  sweetly  drawn  and  guided  by  Himself  to  the 
discharge  of  their  parental  office."  That  the  Child  Jesus 
had  the  first  of  these  qualities,  De  Vit  illustrates  and 
proves  from  what  He  Himself  said  to  the  Jews  with 
reference  to  His  Divine  Sonship.  They  had  reproached 
Him  with  making  Himself  equal  to  God,  and  this  was 
His  reply  :  "  Amen,  amen,  I  say  unto  you,  the  Son  can- 
not do  anything  of  Himself,  but  what  He  seeth  the 
Father  doing;  for  what  things  soever  He  doth,  these 
the  Son  also  doth  in  like  manner.  For  the  Father  loveth 
the  Son,  and  showeth  Him  all  things  which  Himself 
doth."  2  Now,  this  writer  argues,  if  Jesus  taught  this 
of  His  Divine  Nature,  we  may  readily  believe  the  like  of 
Him  in  regard  to  His  Human  Nature,  which  in  Him 

1  Cap.  xxvi.  pp.  163-165.  2  St.  John  v.  18-20. 


338  ST.    JOSEPH. 

must  have  been  most  perfect.  "  Whence  it  may  be  con- 
cluded," he  says,  "  that  if  it  is  the  nature  of  the  son  to 
imitate  his  father,  it  is  only  necessary,  in  order  to  educate 
him,  to  set  before  him  the  example  of  his  parents.  Let 
these  be  perfect  and  the  education  will  be  perfect ;  and 
perfect,  therefore,  was  the  education  of  the  Child  Jesus. 
For  His  Heavenly  Father  had  given  Him  in  Mary  such 
a  mother  as  was  a  perfect  vessel  of  election  in  the  fullest 
sense  of  the  term  ;  nor  was  Joseph  unlike  her  in  the  per- 
fection which  was  her  appanage;  the  same  Eternal 
Father  having  chosen  him  to  be  her  companion  and  co- 
operator  in  a  ministry  of  so  delicate  a  nature.  .  .  .  But 
example  is  not  sufficient ;  the  son  needs  something  more. 
Scarcely  has  he  learned  from  his  parents  the  use  of 
speech  when  immediately,  from  that  innate  desire  which 
he  has  to  know  and  understand,  he  besieges  them  with  a 
thousand  various  questions,  calling  for  an  answer  which 
cannot  be  evaded.  Not  otherwise,  I  believe,  did  the 
Child  Jesus  act  with  regard  to  His  mother  and  St.  Joseph; 
and  I  feel  it  to  be  sufficient  proof  of  this,  that  He  behav 
in  a  similar  manner  with  the  Doctors  of  the  Law  in  the 
Temple,  as  we  shall  see,  '  hearing  them  and  asking  thei 

An  example  of  the  solicitous  care  which  the  parents  oi 
Jesus  took  of  His  religious  education  is  afforded  In  theii 
yearly  visits  to  Jerusalem  to  keep  the  Paschal  solemnity, 
which  was  the  occasion,  when  He  was  twelve  years  olc 
of  the  incident  to  which  reference  is  here  made,  an< 
which  we  are  about  to  narrate  more  fully. 

1  St.  Luke  ii.  46. 

(  339  ) 


ALL  the  males  in  Israel  were  bound  by  the  Mosaic 
Law  to  appear  three  times  yearly  before  the  Lord, 
that  is,  at  the  Feast  of  the  Pasch,  at  Pentecost,  and  at 
the  Feast  of  Tabernacles.  The  place  to  which  the 
Hebrews  were  thus  obliged  to  resort  was  that  in  which 
the  Ark  of  the  Covenant  was  guarded  by  the  priests, 
which,  after  being  removed  to  different  places,  was  by 
David  brought  to  Mount  Sion,  and  was  afterwards  lodged 
in  the  Temple  which  Solomon  built  for  it  at  Jerusalem.1 
Women  were  not  bound  by  this  law,  although  they  often 
observed  it  from  devotion.  We  read,  in  fact,  of  Elcana, 
father  of  the  prophet  Samuel,  and  his  whole  family,  in- 
cluding his  wives,  sons,  and  daughters,  going  every  year 
to  Silo,  where  the  Ark  then  was,  to  join  in  the 
accustomed  sacrifices.2  Children  also,  as  well  as  women, 
were  exempted  from  this  obligation,  save  that,  by  a 
custom  which  came  to  have  the  force  of  law,  boys  were 
obliged  to  keep  all  the  Mosaic  precepts,  civil  as  well  as 
religious,  when  they  had  completed  thirteen  years  of  age  ; 
and  parents,  we  are  told,  were  in  the  habit  of  initiating 
them  in  these  observances  during  the  previous  year ; 
these  boys  were  consequently  called  "sons  of  the 
precept  ".3  But,  as  has  been  just  observed,  fathers  were 
often  accustomed  to  take  their  children  with  them  at  a 

1  2  Kings  vi. ;  3  Kings  viii.  ;  2  Paralip.  v.  2  1  Kings  i.  3. 

3  See  Calmet's  Commentary  on  St.  Luke,  ii.  42. 

340  ST.    JOSEPH. 

much  earlier  age  to  be  present  at  the  solemn  feasts  of 
the  Law.. 

That  the  parents  of  Jesus  observed  this  devotional 
practice,  and  always  took  Jesus  with  them  whenever 
they  went  up  together  to  Jerusalem,  there  can  be  no 
doubt.  We  cannot  conceive  them  leaving  the  Divine 
Child  behind  at  Nazareth,  or  even  willingly  separating 
themselves  from  His  company.  If  the  Evangelist  makes 
no  mention  of  any  festival  save  that  of  the  Pasch,1  nor  of 
the  presence  of  Jesus  at  the  Paschal  solemnity  until  His 
twelfth  year,  it  is  on  account  of  the  incident  which  then 
took  place,  and  which  he  relates.  The  Evangelists  do 
not  travel  beyond  their  immediate  scope  and  object ; 2  we 
have  frequent  examples  of  this  reticence  on  their  part,  of 
which  heretics  and  unbelievers  have  not  been  slow  to 
take  advantage.  St.  Luke's  expressions  cannot  be  under- 
stood to  imply  that  Jesus  went  up  for  the  first  time 
Jerusalem  when  He  was  twelve  years  old,  but  only  that 
on  that  occasion  He  remained  behind.  These  are  his 
words  :  "  And  His  parents  went  every  year  to  Jerusalei 
at  the  solemn  day  of  the  Pasch.  And  when  He 
twelve  years  old,  they  going  up  into  Jerusalem  accordii 
to  the  custom  of  the  feast,  and  having  fulfilled  the  days 
when  they  returned,  the  Child  Jesus  remained  ii 
Jerusalem  ;  and  His  parents  knew  it  not."3  The  me* 
ing  is  obvious.  It  was  sufficient,  in  order  to  the  fulfil 
ment  of  the  precept,  to  be  present  one  day  only  in  tl 
Temple,  but  the  Holy  Family,  mirror  of  all  religious 
perfection,  remained  the  whole  week  of  the  Azymes,  01 
Unleavened  Bread,  in  Jerusalem,  as  is  implied  in  tl 

1  Joseph  would  be  under  the  obligation  of  attending  all  the  thi 
great  feasts.     Maria  d'Agreda  thinks  that  he  attended  two  of  the 
alone,  but  that  at  the  Pasch  Mary  and  Jesus  always  accompanie 

2  On  this  subject  and  on  the  distinguishing  characteristics  of  t' 
four  Gospels  see  F.  Coleridge's  Introduction  to  The  Life  of  our  Lift 
2  vols. 

3  Chap.  ii.  41-43. 

FINDING   OF    JESUS    IN    THE    TEMPLE.  341 

phrase,  "having  fulfilled  the  days".  After  finishing 
their  thanksgiving,  Mary  and  Joseph  prepared  to  return 
to  Nazareth,  in  company,  no  doubt,  for  a  portion  of  the 
way,  until  their  respective  roads  would  diverge,  with  not 
a  few  of  their  holy  relatives.  Various  suggestions  have 
been  made  as  to  how  it  was  that  Jesus  remained  in 
Jerusalem  without  the  knowledge  of  His  parents.  That 
by  His  divine  power  He  could  conceal  Himself  from 
them,  and  pass  away  unobserved,  we  can  readily  under- 
stand :  herein  does  not  lie  the  difficulty ;  but  how  was  it 
that,  careful  as  they  were  of  Him,  a  whole  day  should 
elapse  without  their  noticing  His  absence  ?  The  solution 
adopted  by  Canon  Vitali,  and  the  most  usual,  seems  to 
be  also  the  most  satisfactory.  It  is  as  follows. 

In  order  to  avoid  all  confusion  and  disorder  in  that 
great  mixture  of  persons  of  all  classes  gathered  from 
every  part  of  Palestine  for  the  Paschal  solemnity,  and 
now  returning  to  their  homes,  it  had  been  arranged  that, 
on  leaving  the  Holy  City,  the  men  should  assemble  by 
themselves  in  bands,  and  the  women  in  like  manner. 
Thus  they  each  set  out  separately,  and  remained  separate 
until  they  all  reached  the  halting-place  for  the  night.1  It 
was  optional  for  children  to  accompany  either  of  their 
parents.  Jesus  was  in  the  Temple  with  Mary  and 
Joseph  until  the  close  of  their  act  of  thanksgiving ;  but 
when  this  was  concluded,  and  the  Virgin  was  leaving  on 
one  side  with  the  women,  and  Joseph  on  the  other  with 
the  men,  He  by. a  marvellous  act  of  His  power  withdrew 
Himself  from  their  sight,  Joseph  being  persuaded  that 
He  had  remained  with  His  Mother,  and  Mary,  on  her 
part,  supposing  that  He  had  gone  with  Joseph.  Maria 
d'Agreda  says  that  they  were  both  raised  at  that  moment 
to  an  exalted  state  of  contemplation,  which  diverted 
their  thoughts  from  all  external  objects  ;  and  well  might 

1  Epiphanius  and,  after  him,  St.  Bernard  are  of  opinion  that  the 
men  and  women  travelled  in  distinct  groups. 

342  ST.    JOSEPH. 

their  attendance  at  the  Paschal  solemnities  cast  them 
into  profound  meditation,  for  they  well  knew  that  Jesus 
was  the  cause,  the  object,  and  the  end  of  the  great 
sacrifice  then  offered.  They  would  never  suspect  that 
He  had  left  them,  and  remained  in  the  Temple,  for  this 
was  an  act  on  the  part  of  the  Divine  Child  quite  un- 
precedented, an  independent  act,  of  which  He  had  never 
before  given  an  example.  This  hiding  of  Himself  from 
the  eyes  of  His  parents  was  an  instance  of  the  exercise 
of  that  divine  power  which  He  subsequently  renewed  in 
the  case  of  the  Scribes  and  Pharisees  when  they  sought 
to  stone  Him,1  and  again  when  His  infuriated  country- 
men would  have  led  Him  to  the  brow  of  the  hill  whereon 
their  city  was  built  to  precipitate  Him  thence.2  With- 
out some  such  prodigy  we  could  scarcely  understand  the 
loss  of  Jesus,  considering  the  great  love,  care,  and 
vigilance  with  which  Mary  and  Joseph  always  watched 
over  Him.  And  we  know  that  it  was  through  no  fault 
of  theirs  that  it  occurred,  but  from  the  will  of  God,  that 
the  absence  of  Jesus  might  manifest  the  glory  of  His 
Father,  the  merit  of  His  parents,  and  the  deep  counsels 
of  Divine  Providence.3  Jesus,  then,  remained  behind  in 
the  Temple,  which  was  indeed  His  house,  and  which  H( 
made  His  chief  abode  during  this  ever-memorable  trtduo. 
Here,  we  may  well  believe,  He  prayed  long  and  ferventb 
for  the  salvation  of  men  ;  and  saints  have  told  us  iht 
He  asked  alms  in  Jerusalem,  to  sanctify  and  bless 
His  example,  not  poverty  alone,  but  extreme  indigence. 
Joseph  having  joined  the  men's  caravan,  where  he 
would  probably  find  his  brother  Cleophas  and  oth( 
relatives,  while  Mary  was  in  the  women's  company, 
with  Mary  of  Cleophas  and  others  of  their  kindred, 
they  journeyed  as  far  as  the  city  of  Machmas  ( 
El  Bir).  We  can  imagine  that  the  pious  pilgrims 

1  St.  John  viii.  59.  2  St.  Luke  iv.  29,  30. 

3  Isolano,  torn.  i.  par.  ii.  cap.  xiv. 


sang  as  they  went  the  praises  of  God,  or  conversed 
about  holy  things,  and  especially  the  longed-for 
coming  of  the  Messias ;  yet  Mary  must  have  been 
inwardly  sad  at  the  unaccustomed  absence  of  her  Son, 
who  was  the  joy  of  her  heart  and  the  light  of  her  eyes, 
but  would  console  herself  with  the  assurance  that  He 
was  safe.  He  was  with  Joseph,  and  with  Joseph  He 
must  needs  be  safe ;  neither,  we  may  be  sure,  would  she 
grudge  her  holy  and  beloved  spouse  the  bliss  of  His 
company,  because  for  the  present  she  could  not  be  the 
partner  of  it.  And  now  the  sun  was  sinking,  and  they 
were  all  nearing  the  walls  of  Machmas,  the  first  station 
of  those  who  were  returning  from  Jerusalem  into  Galilee. 
Soon  the  terrible  truth  disclosed  itself — Jesus  was  not  with 
Joseph  and  He  was  not  with  Mary !  Tradition  supports 
the  assertion  here  made,  that  it  was  at  Machmas  1  the 
Blessed  Virgin  discovered  that  the  Child  Jesus  was  not  in 
their  company,  and  Martorelli,  in  his  book  on  the  Holy 
Land,  which  he  visited,  says  that  a  beautiful  church  was 
anciently  dedicated  to  her  there,  in  memory  of  the 
poignant  grief  of  this  most  tender  of  mothers,  and  that  at 
the  time  of  the  Crusades,  having  been  found  in  a 
dilapidated  state,  it  was  rebuilt  by  the  soldiers  of  the 
Cross.  The  walls,  he  adds,  occupy  a  space  of  thirty-two 
metres  in  length,  but  they  were  in  ruins  in  his  time, 
seeming  in  their  desolation  to  participate  in  Mary's 
sorrow.2  Was  ever  sorrow,  indeed,  like  unto  her  sorrow? 
Yet  Joseph's  might  well  bear  some  comparison  there- 
with, since  his  soul  was,  according  to  its  measure,  filled 
to  overflowing  with  unutterable  grief.  Next  to  Jesus, 
who  was  pre-eminently  the  Man  of  Sorrows,  must, 
without  question,  rank  the  Queen  of  Dolours,  His 
Mother,  for,  after  the  Human  Soul  of  the  Word  Incar- 

1  Adricomius,    in    Ephraim,   n.    66.       See    also    P.   Quaresmio, 
Elucidazionc  della  Terra  Santa,  torn.  ii. 

2  Terra  Santa,  cap.  xvii.  p.  394. 

344  ST.    JOSEPH. 

nate,  with  Its  immeasurable  capacities  for  sorrow  and 
suffering,  must  follow,  at  whatever  distance,  that  of  His 
most  holy  Mother,  which  was  a  very  ocean  of  sorrow ;  and 
next  to  hers,  and  closely  resembling  it  in  the  same  mar- 
vellous capacity,  was,  surely,  the  soul  of  the  incompar- 
able Joseph,  divinely  chosen  to  be  her  spouse,  and  made 
so  like  to  her.      These  two  stand  by  themselves  in  a 
proximate  pre-eminence  of  sorrow,  as  Mary  herself  may 
be   said  to  have   recognised  in  those  remarkable  words 
addressed  to  her  Son:   "Thy  father  and  I  have  sought 
Thee  sorrowing".1     Their  grief  must  have  admitted  of 
comparison,  or  she  would  not  have  uttered  them,  and 
uttered  them,  too,  to  Him  who  was  the  Truth  Itself,  and 
knew  what  was  in  the  hearts  of  all  men.     "  Why,"  says 
Cartagena,  "were  both  sorrowing  but  that  both  loved; 
and  why  were  both  so  sorrowful  but  that  together  they 
loved   so  much?      Mary   sorrowed  because  she   was   a 
mother;  Joseph  because  he  was  a  father.     The  sorrow 
of  Mary  was  the  sorrow  of  Joseph  ;  both  alike  sorrowed. 
The  love  of  Mary  was  the  love  of  Joseph.     Their  sorrow 
and  their  love  for  the  Child  Jesus  were  alike,  according 
to  their  respective  capacities ;  immeasurable  and  illimit- 
able.    Mary  is  all  sorrow  and  love  ;  Joseph  is  all  sorrow 
and  love."  2     The  love  and  tenderness  of  Joseph  for  the 
Divine  Child  were,  indeed,  inexpressible  ;  his  sorrow,  too, 
was  therefore  like  to  that  of  Mary,  a  very  ocean,  un- 
fathomable to  us,  whose  shallow  hearts  are,  in  comparisoi 
with   his,  so  cold  and  insensible.     He  had,   besides, 
poignant  sense  of  grief  peculiarly  his  own,  in  that  he 
received  from  above  the  special  charge  of  Jesus ;    am 
what  account  could  he  now  give  of  that  precious  deposit 
But  to  return   to   the  Gospel  narrative.     St.  Luke's 
words  are:  "Thinking  He  was  in  the   company,  the] 
came  a  day's  journey".     Each  of  them,   as  is  evident, 
believed  Him  to  be  so  until  they  met  at  the  close  of  the 
1  St.  Luke  ii.  48.  2  Encom.  S.  Joseph,  Orat.  i. 

FINDING    OF    JESUS    IN    THE    TEMPLE.  345 

day.       The    Evangelist   continues :    "  and   sought   Him 
among  their  kinsfolk   and   acquaintance " — this,  as  we 
understand  it,  would  be  naturally  their  first  step,  how- 
ever hopeless,   before  retracing  their   way, — "  and,  not 
finding  Him,  they  returned  into  Jerusalem  seeking  Him  ". 
The  explanation  we  have  given,  which  is  the  one  most 
usually  adopted,  and  which  is  easily  reconcilable   with 
the  words  of  St.  Luke,  would  seem  to  approve   itself 
to  the  mind  more  than  that  which  De  Vit,  in  his  Life  of 
our  Saint,    prefers.      According  to  him,   there  was   no 
separation   between   Joseph   and   Mary,    they   travelled 
all  day  together,  and,  not  seeing  Jesus  with  them,  were 
satisfied  that  He  was  in  the  company  of  some  of  their 
kindred   and   friends ;    and,    in   order   to   exonerate  the 
Blessed  Virgin  and  her  holy  spouse  from  any  imputation 
of   negligence  in  this   journeying  a  whole   day  without 
ascertaining  where  Jesus  was,  he   says   that  a  reason 
may  be  found  for  their  conduct  in  the  custom  of  their 
nation,  to  which  some  allusion  has  been  made,  namely, 
that  boys  who  had  completed  thirteen  years  of  age  were 
held  to  be  bound   by  all   the   Mosaic  laws,  and  hence 
became  personally  responsible  for  their  actions.     It  was 
a  kind  of  emancipation  from  paternal  control,  for  which 
parents  (as  we  have  said)  were  in  the  habit  of  preparing 
their  sons  the  previous  year,  by  a  certain  relaxation  in 
their  exercise  of  superintendence  and  authority,  according 
them  a  reasonable  liberty.    Now,  though  (he  says)  all  this 
was  not  needed  in  the  case  of  the  Child  Jesus,  he  seems 
to  think  that  His  parents  would  conform  themselves  to  the 
common  practice,  that  nothing  might  transpire  to  those 
around  them  of  the  secret  committed  to  their  keeping. 
JBut   such  a  reason  can   hardly  be   judged  sufficient  to 
account  for  this  apparent  want  of  solicitude.     Solicitude, 
considering  the  youth  of  Jesus  and  the  mixed  crowd  of 
persons  who  composed  the  caravan,  would  be  natural  in 
the  most  ordinary  parents,  and  it  would  have  implied  no 

346  ST.    JOSEPH. 

peculiar  exercise  of  authority  if  that  solicitude  had 
sought  relief  in  enquiry  and  search.  How  much  more 
might  we  anticipate  that  Joseph  and  Mary,  cognisant 
also,  as  they  were,  of  the  perils  which  had  beset  His 
infancy,  would  not  acquiesce  tranquilly  for  a  whole  day  in 
the  absence  of  Jesus  without  ascertaining,  at  least,  that 
He  was  in  safe  keeping.  No  doubt  this  loss  was  a 
mystery  from  beginning  to  end,  but  in  whatever  way  it 
may  have  pleased  God  thus  to  hide  it  in  the  first  instance 
from  the  knowledge  of  Mary  and  Joseph,  and  silence 
anxiety  in  their  hearts,  the  method  suggested  does  not 
seem  to  be  the  most  probable,  for  the  reasons  we  have 

If,  however,  we  cannot  accept  Be  Vit's  views  on  this 
confessedly  difficult  question,  we  entirely  agree  with  him 
in  believing  that  the  three  days'  loss  ought  to  count  in- 
clusively from  the  day  when  Jesus  withdrew  Himself  and 
remained  behind  in  Jerusalem,  and  not  that  Mary  and 
Joseph  sought  Him  for  three  whole  days  in  Jerusalem. 
There  seems  to  be  a  kind  of  parallel  between  this  loss 
and  the  three  days  during  which  Jesus  remained  in  the 
grave,  which  was,  in  fact,  only  one  whole  day  and  a  por- 
tion of  two  others.  Of  the  third,  indeed,  it  was  the 
veriest  fraction  of  a  day,  for  He  rose  from  the  grave  very 
early  in  the  morning  and  before  the  sun  was  above  the 
horizon.  Yet  St.  Mark's  words  are  :  "  and  after  three 
days  rise  again".1  This  was  the  'Hebrew  mode  of  com- 
puting days,  a  portion  of  the  day  counting  for  a  day. 
also,  in  the  loss  and  finding  of  Jesus,  the  three  days  pi 
bably  include  the  day  on  which  Joseph  and 
journeyed  unconscious  of  their  loss  until  near  its  close 
the  second,  during  which  they  were  wholly  engaged 
their  weary  and  agonising  search  for  Him ;  and  the 
on  which  they  joyfully  found  Him  in  the  Temple,  bi 
how  early  in  the  day  that  might  be  we  do  not  know. 
1  Chap.  viii.  31. 

FINDING    OF    JESUS    IN    THE    TEMPLE.  347 

Tradition  tells  us  little  or  nothing  of  the  particulars  of 
the  previous  search,  but  saints  and  favoured  souls  have 
had  visions  on  the  subject,  which  furnish  matter  for  pious 
meditation  and  assist  our  devotion  in  its  consideration, 
especially  those  of  Maria  d'Agreda.  She  dwells  parti- 
cularly on  the  calmness  and  equanimity  which  our  Lady 
preserved  notwithstanding  her  inward  martyrdom,  which 
could  only  -be  compared  to  what  she  was  afterwards  to 
endure  at  the  foot  of  the  Cross ;  many,  indeed,  have  been 
led  to  believe  that  for  several  reasons  the  three  days'  loss 
was  the  most  severe  of  Mary's  dolours.  Yet  she  never 
for  one  moment  lost  her  interior  peace  of  mind ;  and 
this  was  the  more  wonderful  and  meritorious  because,  as 
the  same  contemplative  tells  us,  God  left  her  during  those 
three  days  in  an  ordinary  state  of  grace,  deprived  of  all 
the  special  favours  with  which  her  soul  was  enriched  at 
other  times.  Of  the  glorious  Patriarch,  St.  Joseph,  she 
also  says  that  he  suffered  incomparable  affliction  and 
grief,  going  from  one  place  to  another,  sometimes  with 
his  holy  spouse,  sometimes  alone,  while  she  made  search 
in  another  direction.  His  life,  she  adds,  would  have 
been  in  grievous  peril  if  the  hand  of  the  Lord  had  not 
fortified  and  supported  him,  and  if  the  Virgin  most  pru- 
dent had  not  herself  in  the  midst  of  her  own  sorrow 
consoled  her  spouse  and  entreated  him  to  take  some  brief 
repose.  For  the  love  he  bore  the  Divine  Child  was  so 
intense  that  it  urged  him  to  seek  for  his  lost  Treasure 
with  an  anxiety  and  a  vehemence  which  made  him  forget 
either  to  eat  or  to  sleep.  Our  Lord  revealed  to  Jeanne 
Benigne  Gojos,  a  nun  of  the,  Order  of  the  Visitation, 
who  lived  in  the  17th  century  and  had  a  great  devotion 
to  the  Sacred  Humanity,  that  the  pain  which  both 
Mary  and  Joseph  suffered  was  so  great  that  without  His 
secret  assistance  they  could  not  have  survived.  Their 
sorrow,  He  said,  was  simply  incomprehensible,  and  that 
He  alone  could  understand  it.  From  His  revelations  to 

348  ST.    JOSEPH. 

this  holy  soul  we  also  gather  that  this  third  dolour  of  our 
Lady  was  one  of  the  chief  sufferings  of  our  Blessed  Lord 

At  last,  both  of  them  having  received  an  angelic  sug- 
gestion to  repair  to  the  Temple,  they  hastened  thither, 
and  there  they  beheld  Jesus  seated  in  the  midst  of  the 
Doctors,  "hearing  them  and  asking  them  questions". 
The  hall  where  the  Doctors  held  their  conferences  and 
also  admitted  disciples  who  sought  instruction  from  them , 
was,  it  appears,  not  in  the  body  of  the  Temple ;  Mary  and 
Joseph  might,  therefore,  have  entered  the  sacred  building, 
and  missed  the  object  of  their  search,  but  the  time  was 
come  for  the  close  of  their  trial.  All  eyes  were  fixed 
upon  Jesus,  for  the  Doctors,  whom  He  had  first  inter- 
rogated, had  now  themselves  become  the  questioners,  and 
were  listening  with  admiration  to  the  words  of  wisdom 
which  came  from  the  lips  of  the  Boy-God.  "All  that 
heard  Him,"  says  St.  Luke,  "were  astonished  at  His 
wisdom  and  His  answers."  And  truly  His  divine  loveli- 
ness was  in  itself  sufficient  to  entrance  them.  A  kingly 
majesty  was  on  His  youthful  brow.  His  beautiful  hair 
rested  on  His  shoulders ;  and:  we  are  told  that  it  never 
grew  beyond  the  length  suitable  for  man,  and,  moreover, 
that  not  one  hair  of  His  adorable  Head  ever  fell  from  it 
until  plucked  out  by  the  cruel  Eoman  soldiers.  His  eyes 
were  radiant  with  the  light  of  truth  and  the  fire  of 
charity.  What  was  He  saying,  and  what  had  they 
asked?  No  doubt,  it  had  reference  to  the  promised 
Messias,  the  expectation  of  whose  advent  was  general  in 
Israel  at  that  day.  The  same  favoured  soul  whom  we 
have  'already  quoted  says  that  He  was  rectifying  their 
erroneous  notions  concerning  a  glorious  and  warlike 
Deliverer,  who  was  to  restore  political  independence 
their  nation  and  give  them  sovereignty  over  th< 
enemies  and  oppressors.  He  was  pointing  out  the  pi 
1  See  F.  Faber,  The  Foot  of  the  Cross,  chap.  iv.  pp.  214,  215. 

FINDING    OF    JESUS    IN    THE    TEMPLE.  349 

phecies,  by  them  overlooked,  which  spoke  of  the  humi- 
liation and  sufferings  of  the  Messias ;  and,  had  the 
hearts  of  the  listeners  been  as  open  to  grace  as  were  their 
eyes  and  ears  to  the  charm  of  what  they  saw  and  heard, 
they  must  have  recognised  the  predicted  Liberator  in  the 
marvellous  Boy  whose  wisdom  so  astonished  them. 
Nevertheless  we  may  hope  that  some  good  seed  may 
have  been  sown  in  the  hearts  of  more  than  one  among 
them,  which  was  later  to  bear  fruit.  We  are  reluctant 
to  think  that  He  who  accorded  to  His  Apostle  Peter  a 
miraculous  draught  of  no  less  than  three  thousand  souls 
at  his  first  sermon  should  Himself  on  this  occasion,  when 
He  mysteriously  forestalled  His  own  future  public  minis- 
try by  occupying  Himself  thus  early  about  His  Eternal 
Father's  interests,  have  drawn  no  single  one  into  His 
net,  and  that  bare  admiration  and  wonder  were  all  that 
He  succeeded  in  eliciting.  Be  this  as  it  may,  we  cannot 
penetrate  the  secret  counsels  of  God,  nor  expect  always 
to  see  what  we  call  the  reasons  of  things.  Even  in  the 
natural  world  we  are  constantly  at  fault  in  this  respect ; 
how  much  more  should  it  be  so  in  the  higher  region  of 
grace,  in  the  invisible  things  of  God,  and  the  secret  dis- 
pensations of  His  Providence  ! 

Even  Mary  and  Joseph  are  said  to  have  wondered  on 
seeing  Him.1  There  was  something  new  to  them  in  His 
voice,  manner,  -attitude,  and  bearing.  Never  had  they 
seen  Him  like  to  that  before.  Doubtless  they  stood  for  a 
moment  looking  on,  silent  for  very  joy  and  awe.  Joseph, 
indeed,  continued  silent.  Though,  as  the  father  and 
head,  he  had  the  first  right  to  question  the  Boy  concern- 
ing His  absence,  he  spoke  not  a  word,  leaving  it  to  the 
Mother  to  make  that  touching  remonstrance  to  her  Son 
and  her  God  which  we  so  well  know  :  "  Son,  why  hast 
Thou  done  so  to  us?  Behold,  Thy  father  and  I  have 
sought  Thee  sorrowing."  We  have  already  made  several 
1  St.  Luke  ii.  48. 

350  ST.    JOSEPH. 

comments  on  her  mention  of  Joseph's  sorrow  along  with 
and  indeed,  as  it  were,  before  her  own,  and  have  pointed 
to  all  which  such  mention  implies  with  reference  to  the 
rights,  dignity,  and  position  of  her  incomparable  spouse, 
and  will  only  here  subjoin  two  further  observations  :  first, 
that  great  and  immeasurable  as  had  been  Mary's  grief, 
it  had  not  only  not  made  her  forget  that  of  Joseph,  but 
had  not  prevented  her  from  sorrowing  deeply  for  the 
anguish  of  soul  which  she  knew  he  was  enduring — this 
may  give  us  some  slight  idea  of  its  intensity ;  secondly, 
that  she  knew  how  dear  he  was  to  Jesus,  since  in  her 
pathetic  remonstrance  and  appeal  she  alludes  to  this 
sorrow  of  His  father  as  sure  to  move  His  filial  heart  as  much 
as  would  the  thought  of  her  own.  Jesus  replied  :  "  How 
is  it  that  you  sought  Me  ?  Did  you  not  know  that  I  must 
be  about  My  Father's  business  ?  "  or,  as  some  have  ren- 
dered the  last  words,  "  in  My  Father's  house  ?  "  Which- 
ever rendering  be  adopted,  the  meaning  is  substantially 
the  same ;  but  it  was  a  meaning  hidden  for  the  time  both 
from  Mary  and  from  Joseph,  for  the  Evangelist  says : 
"  They  understood  not  the  word  that  He  spoke  unto 
them  ".  In  whatever  sense  we  are  to  understand  this 
temporary  ignorance  on  the  part  of  His  parents,  we  can- 
not, at  any  rate,  suppose  that  they  did  not  comprehend 
that  He  was  speaking  of  His  Eternal  Father  and  of  the 
mission  which  He  had  come  upon  earth  to  fulfil.  Mary 
and  Joseph  well  knew  that  their  Jesus  was  the  true  Son 
of  God,  and  they  knew  also  the  end  for  which  He  he 
come.  The  angel  had  clearly  announced  it  to  them. 
Independently,  therefore,  of  all  the  heavenly  illuminatioi 
which  they,  and  especially  the  Mother  of  God  hersel 
must  have  since  received  from  the  Divine  Child,  no  obsci 
rity  could  exist  in  their  minds  on  this  matter.  Thj 
which  for  the  present  had  been  withheld  from  them  wj 
it  would  seem,  the  full  knowledge  of  the  order,  mode,  an< 
time  in  which  this  divine  mission  was  to  be  accomplished, 

FINDING    OF   JESUS    IN    THE    TEMPLE.  351 

and,  in  particular,  the  place  in  that  order  which  the  pre- 
sent unexpected  act  of  Jesus  held,  or  what  was  its  full 
significance.  The  reply  of  Jesus  to  His.  mother  did  not 
as  yet  raise  the  veil,  but  light,  no  doubt,  came  to  her,  and 
to  Joseph  also,  when  they  had  once  more  with  them  Him 
who  is  "  the  true  light  of  men".  For,  even  as  hereafter 
at  the  marriage-feast  of  Cana  of  Galilee  He  publicly 
manifested  His  power  at  His  mother's  request,  before  the 
hour  was  yet  come,1  so,  when  now  displaying  the  first  rays 
of  His  glory  before  the  Doctors  of  Israel,  and  in  the  very 
midst  of  His  divine  instructions,  a  word  from  Mary  made 
Him  leave  all,  and  meekly  return  with  her  and  Joseph  to 
Nazareth.  It  is  a  mystery  quite  beyond  our  comprehen- 
sion— though  a  fitting  subject  for  meditation  and  reverent 
conjecture — this  assertion  by  our  Lord  of  His  sovereign 
independence  even  in  His  boyhood;  to  be  immediately 
followed,  as  it  was,  by  His  voluntary  and  complete  sub- 
jection to  His  parents  for  so  many  subsequent  years. 
"  And  He  went  down  with  them,  and  came  to  Nazareth, 
and  was  subject  to  them." 2 

1  It  is  scarcely  necessary  to  observe  that  when  our  Lord  says 
His  hour  was  not  come,  we  are  to  understand  that  it  would  not 
have  come  but  for  His  mother's  intercession.  What  a  light  is  here 
shown  on  the  wonderful  potency  of  prayer  and,  above  all,  on  Mary's 
influence  with  her  Son  ! 

2  St.  Luke  ii.  51. 

(  352  ) 


fllHE  Evangelist  sums  up  in  these  few  words,  "He 
.1  was  subject  to  them,"  the  history  of  eighteen  years 
of  the  life  of  the  Saviour.  Of  what  He  did  or  what  He 
said  during  that  long  space  of  time  we  have  no  record 
save  this — that  He  upon  whose  bidding  the  angels  wait 
received  and  obeyed  the  commands  of  Mary  and  Joseph. 
St.  Luke  has  devoted  a  large  portion  of  his  Gospel  to 
relating  details  of  the  early  Infancy  of  Jesus,  and  of  the 
last  hours  which  He  spent  on  earth,  but  in  regard  to  His 
occupation  during  eighteen  entire  years  of  His  adorable 
life  he  has  only  this  brief  sentence.  Is  it  because  the 
Son  of  God  did  nothing  either  mysterious  or  marvellous 
during  that  time  ?  It  would  be  impious  to  entertain  such 
a  thought.  Is  it  because  the  Evangelist  knew  no  more 
than  he  told  ?  This  is  scarcely  credible  in  the  case  of 
one  who  must  have  learned  from  the  lips  of  the  Blessed 
Virgin  herself  all  the  particulars  which  he  gives  of  the 
Annunciation,  the  Nativity,  and  the  Adoration  of  the 
Shepherds,  and  who  has  not  omitted  one  word  of  the 
"  Magnificat,"  or  of  the  "  Canticle  of  Zachary,"  or  of 
of  the  ancient  Simeon.  How  is  it,  then,  that  he  has 
more  to  tell  us  ?  It  must  be  because  the  whole  employ 
ment  of  Jesus  during  those  eighteen  years  was  to  obey 
everything  the  most  holy  Virgin  and  St.  Joseph  ;  so  that, 
although  He  performed  innumerable  heroic  acts  of  piety, 
humility,  patience,  zeal,  and  all  other  virtues,  neverthe- 
less, to  all  appearance,  His  sole  occupation  during  that 


whole  period  was  the  doing  the  will  of  His  parents.  St. 
John,  the  beloved  disciple  and  the  last  of  the  Evangelists, 
who  treats  of  those  portions  of  the  life  of  Jesus  which, 
the  rest  had  omitted  or  only  lightly  touched  upon,  has 
added  nothing  to  these  few  words  of  St.  Luke  concerning 
the  Hidden  Life  of  Jesus,  the  Man-God,  although  his 
intimate  association  with  Mary  during  many  years  after 
our  Lord's  Ascension  furnished  him  with  the  opportunity 
of  knowing  as  much  or  even  more  than  may  have  been 
communicated  to  the  other.  We  may,  therefore,  con- 
clude that  Jesus  applied  Himself  in  such  wise  to  the 
practice  of  obedience  during  those  years  that  His  life  is 
fully  described  in  the  short  words  of  the  Evangelist — that 
He  was  subject  to  Joseph  and  Mary.  But  how  much  is 
contained  in  these  words  !  They  well  deserve  that  we 
should  bestow  some  deep  consideration  upon  them,  and 
specially  as  regards  the  obedience  paid  to  Joseph ;  for 
Jesus  was  subject,  not  only  to  the  mother  who  had  borne 
Him,  but  to  the  father  whom  He  had  Himself  elected 
and  endowed  with  the  authority  which  appertains  to  the 
paternal  relationship ;  and  such  authority  in  the  family 
is  supreme.  That  of  the  two  parents  is  joint  as  respects 
the  child,  but  it  is  the  father's  which  is  necessarily 
absolute,  since  the  wife  also  is  subject  to  him ;  nor  was 
it  otherwise  in  the  Holy  Family. 

Two  truths,  then,  present  themselves  for  our  accept- 
ance. First,  that  Joseph  was  invested  with  the  right  of 
commanding  Jesus  Christ ;  secondly,  that  he  in  effect 
used  that  right,  the  right  of  being  obeyed  by  Him  whom 
all  things  obey.  We  may  notice  in  the  Gospels  that  the 
Saviour  subjected  Himself  in  different  modes  to  three 
different  classes  of  persons :  to  His  Heavenly  Father,  to 
the  Blessed  Virgin  and  St.  Joseph,  and  to  ecclesiastical 
and  secular  rulers.  When  He  obeyed  His  Eternal 
Father,  He  did  so  as  matter  of  obligation,  because,  con- 
sidered in  His  Human  Nature,  He  depended  upon  God, 


354  ST.   JOSEPH. 

and  naturally  owed  Him  homage  and  submission.  When 
He  executed  the  orders  of  secular  and  ecclesiastical 
rulers,  it  was  without  any  obligation  whatsoever  on  His 
part,  for  no  king,  emperor,  or  pontiff  possessed  jurisdiction 
over  the  Sacred  Humanity  of  Jesus,  united  to  the  Word, 
infinitely  raised  above  them,  and  incapable  of  inferiority 
in  their  regard.  But  when  He  submitted  Himself  to  the 
rule  of  the  Blessed  Virgin  and  St.  Joseph,  He  recognised 
in  them  a  certain  authority  to  command  Him,  and  a 
certain  superiority  which  no  one  else  possessed ;  although 
(as  St.  Ambrose  points  out)  this  authority  was  not 
communicated  to  them  independently  of  His  will,  but 
only  because  He  was  pleased  thus  to  subject  Himself 
to  their  rule  and  take  them  for  His  superiors  of  His  own 
free  choice. 

Cardinal  Toledo  teaches  that  we  must  judge  of  the 
Saviour  in  His  submission  to  the  Blessed  Virgin  and 
Joseph  in  the  same  manner  as  we  regard  His  obedience 
to  the  Law  of  Moses.  The  Incarnate  Word  was  in  no 
way  subject  to  that  Law  ;  yet,  from  an  .excessive  love  of 
humiliation  and  of  obedience,  He  willed  to  submit  to  the 
necessity  of  keeping  it  when  He  abased  Himself  to  re- 
ceive the  rite  of  circumcision,  by  which,  according  to 
St.  Paul,  the  recipient  publicly  contracted  the  debt  or 
obligation  to  fulfil  all  the  precepts  of  the  Law.1  Thus 
Jesus,  according  to  the  rigour  of  justice,  was  in  no  way 
subject  to  Mary  and  Joseph,  who,  so  far  from  being  His 
natural  superiors,  were  themselves  His  legitimate  subjects. 
And  well  He  manifested  this  when  He  separated  Himself 
from  them  to  remain  behind  in  Jerusalem  without  asking 
their  permission,  nay,  without  even  apprizing  them  of 
His  intention.  Nevertheless,  even  as  He  abased  Himself 
from  the  height  of  His  throne  in  Heaven  to  the  lowliness 
of  the  crib,  so  also,  when  He  became  man,  He  humbled 
Himself  from  the  elevation  to  which  the  supreme  dignit 
1  Gal.  v.  3. 


of  His  Sacred  Humanity  raised  Him,  to  place  Himself  in 
the  quality  of  an  inferior  at  the  feet  of  Mary  and  Joseph. 
Sons  are  not  bound  to  follow  the  guidance  of  their  parents 
and  to  obey  them  precisely  because  they  are  their  sons ; 
for,  if  this  were  so,  a  son  would  never  be  emancipated, 
but  so  long  as  his  father  lived  would  remain  under  his 
control  and  dominion.  But  this  is  not  the  case,  since  a 
son  may  even  become  his  father's  superior,  or  be  raised  to 
the  position  of  his  prelate.  Eespect  he  would  always 
continue  to  owe  him  as  his  father,  but  not  obedience. 
Children  are  bound  to  obey  their  parents  as  well  as  to 
hold  them  in  all  respect,  chiefly  on  account  of  the 
dependent  state  in  which  they  are  born.  Nature  thus 
places  them  in  subjection  to  their  parents,  from  whom 
they  receive  nurture  and  instruction  in  all  that  is 
necessary  for  attaining  and  developing  the  perfection  of 
man's  estate  ;  which  perfection  is  only,  as  it  were,  in 
germ  and  potentiality  within  them.  Jesus,  then,  on 
coming  into  the  world,  did  not  place  Himself  under  the 
guidance  of  the  Blessed  Virgin  solely  because  she  had 
contributed  a  portion  of  her  pure  blood  to  form  a  body 
for  Him  ;  neither  did  He  subject  Himself  to  Joseph 
solely  because  he  was  Mary's  spouse ;  but  because  in 
His  birth  He  willed  to  be  weak  and  helpless  like  other 
children  who  need  their  parents'  care  and  assistance. 

It  was  not  without  design  that  the  Incarnation  was 
announced  to  the  Blessed  Virgin  before  the  coming  of 
the  Word,  and  to  Joseph  after  the  accomplishment  of  the 
mystery.  This  design  was  not  solely  that  we  might  be 
given  to  understand  that  Joseph  had  no  part  in  it,  but  (as 
St.  Ambrose1  says)  because  the  Word  would  not  become 
incarnate  without  the  free  consent  of , Mary,  nor  be  born 
as  a  poor  and  abject  child,  almost  forsaken  of  the  whole 
world,  before  our  saint  had  accepted  the  care  of  Him  and 
the  charge  of  bringing  Him  up  as  his  son,  and  had  thus 
1  Horn.  ii.  in  Natali  Domini. 

356  ST.    JOSEPH. 

been  invested  with  the  right,  bestowed  on  him  by 
Heaven,  of  exercising  authority  over  Him.  Joseph,  thy  . 
wife  shall  bear  a  Son,  who  shall  feel  all  the  rigours  of 
cold,  the  sufferings  of  hunger  and  thirst,  and  all  the 
infirmities  of  this  life  ;  He  will  thus  be  obliged  to  have 
recourse  to  thee.  In  this  wise  the  Holy  Spirit  declares 
(as  St.  Thomas  shows  when  expounding  this  passage  of 
the  Gospel)  the  power  of  St.  Joseph,  manifesting  to  us 
the  necessity  Jesus  was  pleased  to  have  of  him  for  His 
nurture,  and  the  offices  which  he  was  to  render  to  Him. 
This  was  also  the  teaching  of  the  Angelic  Doctor's 
master,  Albert  the  Great,  who  addresses  St.  Joseph  in 
like  manner,  telling  him  that,  although  he  had  in  no  wise 
contributed  to  the  conception  of  the  Saviour,  nevertheless 
it  must  be  confessed  that  he  had  been  in  a  certain  way 
necessary  for  His  bringing  up,  in  consequence  of  the  con- 
dition in  which  He  willed  to  come  into  the  world.1  So 
that  this  Divine  Infant  seems  to  place  Himself  in  the 
arms  of  Joseph  and  implore  his  aid,  as  though  He  was. 
incapable  of  defending  or  supporting  Himself,  and  thereby 
puts  him  in  possession  of  all  the  authority  which  other 
fathers  have  over  their  children,  an  authority  which  we 
may  say  comes  of  natural  right  as  well  as  by  divine 

It  implies  no  derogation  from  the  dignity  and  super- 
eminence  of  the  holy  Mother  of  God  to  affirm  that,  as 
regards  the  authority  to  command  Jesus  and  rule  His 
actions  exteriorly,  Joseph  had  received  higher  powers 
than  even  Mary  herself ;  for  this  is  only  according  to  the 
order  appointed  by  God,  to  which  the  Holy  Family 
entirely  conformed.  The  Gospel  clearly  proves  that 
such  was  the  case,  by  relating  how  the  angels  did  not 
bear  the  orders  of  Heaven  to  Mary,  but  to  Joseph.  And 
wherefore  save  that  he  was  the  lord  of  this  Sacred 
Family,  who  was  in  everything  to  be  the  prime  mover 
1  In  Matthceum,  cap.  i.  St.  Anselm  says  the  same. 


of  its  actions,  and  to  whom  it  appertained  to  determine  in 
particular  all  that  was  necessary  for  the  care  and  preserva- 
tion of  Jesus,  his  Son  ?  A  learned  interpreter  of  Scripture l 
observes  that,  although  the  Virgin  was  the  first  to  know 
that  her  Son  should  be  named  Jesus,  nevertheless  the 
angel  did  not  send  St.  Joseph  to  learn  it  from  this 
sovereign  lady,  but  informed  him  of  it  in  a  special  appari- 
tion, and  explained  to  him  the  signification  of  this  Name, 
even  as  if  he  alone  had  been  concerned  in  the  matter. 
For  (as  this  same  Doctor  continues  to  show)  Joseph,  in 
the  capacity  of  father  of  the  family,  ought  not  to  receive 
his  orders  from  his  spouse,  nor  was  it  meet  that  the 
lord  of  a  house  should  not  dispose  things  except  by  the 
expressed  will  of  those  who  were  dependent  on  him. 
The  angels  made  the  same  declaration  in  favour  of 
Joseph's  authority  by  revealing  to  him  the  necessity  of 
the  flight  into  Egypt,  leaving  the  Blessed  Virgin  to  be 
informed  of  the  will  of  Heaven  from  the  lips  of  her 
spouse ;  and,  again,  it  was  to  him  that  the  message  was 
addressed  when  the  term  of  exile  had  arrived.  More- 
over, when  Joseph  was  apprehensive  of  going  into  Judea 
for  fear  of  Archelaus,  it  was  from  the  angel  that  he 
sought  and  received  light,  although  at  his  side  was  the 
Queen  of  angels,  and  even  the  Creator  of  the  angels. 
The  Mother  of  God  and  the  Incarnate  Word  Himself 
honoured  his  authority  by  their  silence,  as  being  the 
head  of  the  Family,  to  whom  perfect  obedience  was  due. 
Joseph,  then,  accepted  and  used  the  authority  given  to 
him  over  Jesus,  but  with  fear  and  trepidation,  to  use 
Origen's  expression.2  He  never  gave  Him  a  command  in 
anything  except  in  humble  obedience  to  the  command 
which  he  had  himself  received ;  and  he  did  so  with  the 
same  reverence  as  that  with  which  the  angels  serve  Him 
in  Heaven ;  and  with  good  reason,  for  it  was,  indeed,  a 

1  Laurentius  Aponte  in  Matthceum,  cap.  i. 
2  Horn.  xx.  in  Lucam. 

358  ST.    JOSEPH. 

fearful  thing  to  be  charged  with  directing  the  conduct  of 
a  God,  and  to  be  placed  as  superior  over  Him  in  whose 
presence  the  highest  of  creatures,  the  most  exalted  of 
the  angelic  hierarchies,  the  Seraphim  and  the  Cherubim, 
prostrate  and  annihilate  themselves,  casting  their  crowns 
at  His  feet.  Moses  was  raised  to  a  high  dignity  when 
he  was  appointed  ruler  and  legislator  of  the  people  of 
God,  but  here  we  have  one  who  was  exalted  to  be  ruler 
and  governor  of  the  God  of  that  people.  Nay,  as  Scrip- 
ture tells  us  that  the  Lord  said  to  Moses,  "Behold  I 
have  appointed  thee  the  God  of  Pharao,"1  we  may  also 
be  allowed  to  say  that  Joseph  was,  in  a  manner,  set  to 
be  the  God  of  God  Himself.  Words  which,  taken  liter- 
ally, are  exaggerations  or  paradoxes  become  needful,  so 
to  say,  in  order  to  enable  our  minds  to  grasp  a  fact 
which,  from  its  very  magnificence  and  startling  nature, 
is  liable  to  evade  our  full  apprehension — namely,  the 
obedience  of  God  to  a  man.  It  is  said  in  the  Book  of 
Josue,  when  "  the  sun  stood  still  in  the  midst  of  heaven, 
and  hasted  not  to  go  down  the  space  of  one  day  " 2  at  the 
voice  of  the  leader  of  Israel,  "  there  was  not  before  nor 
after  so  long  a  day,  the  Lord  obeying  the  voice  of  a 
man  "  ;  but  not  for  twenty-four  hours  alone  did  the  Lord 
obey  the  voice  of  Joseph,  but  for  well-nigh  thirty  years. 
Moreover,  it  must  be  noted  that  Josue  prayed  first  to 
the  Lord,  and  then  commanded  the  sun,  which  was  only 
a  material  creature  of  His  hand,  but  Joseph  commandec 
the  Sun  of  Justice  Himself,  who  had  called  all  things  01 
of  nothing. 

Next   to   the    unapproachable    dignity   of    the    grej 
Mother  of  God  there  is  none  that  can  be  compared 
that  of  Joseph.     The  great  Chancellor  of  the  Universil 
of  Paris,  Gerson,  says  that,  as  the  obedience  of  Jesus 
Joseph  was  an  inestimable  act  of  humility,  it  implk 
correspondingly,   in    Joseph    an    incomparable   dignity. 

1  Exod.  vii.  1.  2  Chap.  x.  13,  14.  3  Scrmo  de  Nativ.  vi. 


This  authority  of  Joseph  is,  in  fact,  so  singular  that,  not 
only  has  no  man,  however  favoured  and  exalted,  whether 
by  miraculous  or  prophetical  or  apostolic  powers,  but  no 
angel  has  ever  shared  it  even  for  a  moment,  nor  ever  will 
during  the  eternal  ages ;  and,  if  this  be  so,  we  may  well 
hold,  with  Gerson,  that  the  having  received  the  obedi- 
ence of  the  Supreme  Lord  of  all  things  belongs  to  Joseph 
as  an  exclusive  and  unexampled  honour.  In  this  glory 
he  stands  alone  with  Mary.  God  said  to  St.  Bridget : 
"  My  Son  was  so  obedient  that  when  Joseph  said  do  this 
or  that  immediately  He  did  it.1  The  blessed  spirits  of 
Heaven  must  have  contemplated  such  a  spectacle  with 
inconceivable  amazement  and  admiration  :  the  Very  Son 
of  God  neither  moving  a  step,  nor  speaking  a  word,  nor 
taking  food  or  repose,  save  under  Joseph's  direction. 
They  must  have  marvelled  to  behold  Him — and  that  at 
an  age  when  other  sons  are  emancipated — willingly  pro- 
longing for  eighteen  years  the  period  of  submission, 
making  Himself  a  humble  apprentice  in  Joseph's  work- 
shop and  labouring  with  him  at  his  trade ;  for  it  was  in 
this  character,  as  the  Gospel  tells  us,  He  was  familiarly 
known  to  His  countrymen,  who,  scandalised  afterwards 
at  the  wisdom  and  power  with  which  He  spoke,  queru- 
lously asked,  "  Is  not  this  the  carpenter's  son?  Is  not 
this  the  carpenter?"2  Sight  more  admirable  to  the 
angelic  hosts  was  this  self-humiliation  of  the  Eternal 
Word  than  the  creation  of  the  visible  world,  when  God 
laid  the  corner-stone  thereof,  and  the  morning  stars  to- 
gether praised  Him,  and  all  the  sons  of  God  burst  forth 
in  joyful  melody.3 

The  Son  of  God  once  declared  that  He  came,  "  not  to 
be  ministered  unto  but  to  minister";  at  another  time 
He  said,  "  I  am  in  the  midst  of  you  as  he  that  serveth"  ;4 

1  Revelations,  b.  vi.  c.  Iviii. 

2  St.  Matthew  xiii.  55 ;  St.  Mark  vi.  3.  3  Job  xxxviii.  6,  7. 

4  St.  Matthew  xx.  28 ;  St.  Mark  x.  45 ;  St.  Luke  xxii.  27. 

360  ST.    JOSEPH. 

and  of  this  He  gave  a  striking  example  before  the  last 
supper  which  He  ate  with  His  Apostles,  when  He  took  a 
towel,  and  girded  Himself,  and  washed  their  feet ; 1  but 
for  eighteen  years  He  had  performed  the  lowliest  offices 
in  the  House  of  Nazareth.  St.  Basil,  in  the  4th  chapter 
of  his  "  Monastic  Constitutions,"  says  that  the  Saviour 
worked  indefatigably  all  the  day  to  serve  and  obey  Mary 
and  Joseph,  who  thus  received  the  continual  ministra- 
tions of  their  God.  St.  Justin,  in  his  "  Dialogue  with 
Tryphon,"  affirms  that  the  Incarnate  Word  helped  St, 
Joseph  in  his  workshop,  relieving  him  in  his  toils  as  far 
as  human  strength  permitted ;  for  this  beloved  Son  had 
the  greatest  respect  for  His  foster-father,  and,  according 
to  St.  Jerome,  could  not  fail  in  this  obligation.  Neces- 
sitous persons  look  for  no  help  in  their  domestic  work 
but  such  as  their  children  can  give  them;  and  (as  St. 
Laurence  Justinian  observes)  the  Son  of  God,  desiring  in 
nothing  to  distinguish  Himself  from  common  people,  was 
as  a  servant  in  the  house  of  Mary  and  Joseph,  that  He 
might  one  day  say  with  truth  that  He  came,  not  to  be 
ministered  unto,  but  to  minister.  Again,  St.  Bonaventura 
says  that  Mary  and  Joseph  were  too  poor  to  have  ser- 
vants, but  the  Lord  of  the  World  by  His  ministrations 
stood  in  the  place  of  servant  to  them. 

Let  us,  then,  with  the  learned  and  devout  Gerson,  con- 
template this  King  of  Glory,  this  God  of  Majesty,  this 
Sovereign  Lord  of  men  and  of  angels,  demeaning  Himself 
in  such  wise  as  regards  His  parents  that  He  might 
be  believed  to  be  their  servant  rather  than  their  son 
often  (he  says)  lighting  the  fire,  preparing  the  meals 
washing  the  dishes,  or  carrying  water  from  the  fountain.2 
This  adorable  Saviour  passed  the  last  three  years  of  His 
life  in  His  public  ministry  and  in  marvellous  acts 
charity  towards  all  who  needed  help ;  but  the  time  w 
short  which  He  devoted  to  this  display  of  His  goodness 
1  St.  John  xiii.  4,  5.  2  Josephina,  dist.  iii. 


His  people  in  comparison  with  that  which  He  had 
devoted  to  Joseph,  never  leaving  his  side  for  so  large  a 
portion  of  the  life  He  spent  on  earth,  occupied  with  the 
one  abiding  solicitude  to  obey  him  and  render  him  filial 
duty  and  submission.  "We  are  not  to  suppose,"  says 
St.  Bernard,  "  that  the  Mother  of  God  and  her  spouse 
bade  Him  only  do  such  things  as  were  agreeable,  and 
never  what  was  difficult  or  would  have  been  contrary  to 
His  natural  inclination.  We  may  believe,  for  instance, 
that  Jesus  would  not  so  soon  have  left  the  assembly  of 
Doctors  in  the  Temple,  where  He  was  occupying  Himself 
about  the  interests  of  His  Eternal  Father,  had  Joseph 
and  Mary,  who  had  been  seeking  Him  for  three  days, 
been  willing  that  He  should  remain  longer.  But,  as  He 
knew  they  desired  to  take  Him  with  them,  docile  to  His 
mother's  voice,  He  arose  and  returned  with  them  to 
Nazareth."  x  But  all  this  was  in  accordance  with  His 
divine  purpose  and  will,  which  was  that,  while  in- 
wardly reverencing  and  adoring  Him,  His  parents  should 
outwardly  treat  Him  as  other  children  are  treated,  using 
their  own  discretion  and  prudence  in  His  guidance. 

As  it  is  impossible  to  fathom  or  duly  comprehend  the 
humility  of  the  Son  of  God,  who  was  pleased  to  occupy 
for  so  many  years  the  position  of  an  inferior  in  a  poor 
carpenter's  house,  placing  Himself  entirely  under  his 
orders  and  at  his  disposal,  so  also  is  it  beyond  our  power 
adequately  to  realise  the  grandeur  of  Joseph's  exaltation. 
But  the  power  given  to  him  over  the  Saviour  and  His 
most  holy  Mother  was  united  in  him  to  a  proportionate 
fund  of  prudence  and  rectitude  to  enable  him  to  sustain 
such  a  charge  with  all  the  decorum  and  perfection  that 
was  needed.  Above  all,  let  us  consider  what  must  have 
been  the  rectitude  of  his  will,  which  was  so  exact  that  a 
God  was  pleased  to  accept  it  as  the  rule  of  His  exterior 
actions.  Holy  Scripture  and  all  theology,  nay,  even 
1  Sermo  in  Cantic.  xix. 

362  ST.    JOSEPH. 

natural  reason,  teaches  us  that  the  Supreme  Will  of  God 
must  be  the  regulator  of  all  the  movements  of  our  will. 
And  yet  Jesus  Christ,  who  had  the  Law  of  His  Father 
deeply  graven  in  the  midst  of  His  heart,  and  who  Him- 
self was  the  Living  Law,  had  imparted  such  equity  and 
rectitude  to  the  will  of  our  saint  that  He  subjected  His 
own  will  to  his.  Hence  we  may  infer,  with  the  learned 
Chancellor,  that,  since  the  Saviour  of  the  world  was 
infinitely  exalted  above  all  men  and  angels,  and  all 
things  created  or  possible  to  be  created,  and  one  moment 
of  His  divine  life  was  more  precious  in  the  sight  of  God 
than  a  million  of  ages  of  the  life  of  all  creation,  it  is  a 
legitimate  consequence  of  this  truth  to  hold  that  it  was  a 
greater  glory  for  Joseph  to  command  Jesus,  not  for  thirty 
years,  as  in  fact  he  did,  but  for  a  single  moment,  than  to 
have  had  absolute  power  unto  the  end  of  time  over  the 
whole  creation  of  God.  God,  after  the  creation  of  the 
world,  was  not  richer  than  He  was  before,  neither  did  He 
become  more  powerful  after  the  Incarnation  of  the  Word 
than  He  had  been  for  all  eternity.  Nevertheless,  had  it 
been  possible  that  the  authority  of  God  should  receive 
any  increment,  the  creation  and  government  of  all  the 
spheres  would  have  added  far  less  to  it  than  the  Incarna- 
tion of  His  Son,  because,  having  hitherto  governed  only 
creatures,  He  then  began  to  command  His  Divine  Word. 
Now,  it  was  this  power  which  He  was  pleased  to  share 
with  Joseph;  so  that  the  authority  of  this  great  saint 
may  be  said  to  have  been  magnified  to  such  a  degree  as 
in  some  wise  to  bear  a  resemblance  to  that  of  God  Him- 
self. Oh,  the  incomparable'  greatness  and  glory  of 
Joseph  !  What  have  we  as  yet  done  for  the  honour  of 
him  whom  the  Eternal  King  so  much  desireth 
honour  ? 

The  following  beautiful  passage  from  the  Pastor? 
Letter  of  the  Bishop  of  Nottingham,  Advent,  188' 
which  fell  under  our  notice  after  the  above  was  writtei 


will  serve  to  illustrate  much  of  what  has  gone  before,  and 
to  quicken  and  deepen  our  perception,  in  detail,  of  the 
life  which  the  Holy  Family  led  at  Nazareth,  and  of  the 
obedience  which,  in  His  divine  condescendence,  Jesus 
paid  His  parents. 

"  In  the  Holy  House  of  Nazareth  the  Child  was  the 
teacher  of  His  parents,  not  taught  by  them.1  The 
Eternal  Wisdom  of  God  could  learn  nothing  from  any 
creature,  even  in  His  Human  Nature.  Divine  light, 
and  teaching,  and  grace  poured  forth  from  His  every  act 
and  word  into  the  souls  of  His  father  and  mother.  Yet, 
while  He  thus  enlightened  them — the  two  most  perfect 
of  His  creatures — His  every  look  and  word  were  those  of 
a  docile  and  obedient  child.  He  followed  their  directions 
and  obeyed  their  commands,  and  also  the  commands  of 
His  Heavenly  Father,  sent,  not  to  Him  directly,  but  to 
them  for  Him.  He  sat  at  their  feet,  hearing  them  and 
asking  them  questions,  as  He  did  with  the  priests  in  the 
Temple,  while  they  always  hung  upon  His  words,  and 
pondered  them  in  their  hearts,  and  wondered  at  His 
wisdom  and  at  His  answers.  How  marvellous  must 
have  been  that  school  of  Heavenly  Wisdom,  in  which 
Mary  and  Joseph  were  but  pupils,  where  even  the  Virgin 
of  Good  Counsel,  the  Seat  of  Wisdom  herself,  and  her 
dear  Spouse  Joseph,  the  just  man,  the  Son  of  David,  did 
not  always  comprehend  the  Word  that  was  said,  but  had 
to  ponder  divine  mysteries  in  their  hearts,  waiting  for 
further  illuminations  of  the  Holy  Spirit  !  What  perfect 
and  consummate  wisdom  was  there  breathed  forth ! 
What  inconceivable  perfection  and  holiness  of  life  was 
there  displayed !  The  angels  who  looked  on  in  adoring 

1  It  is  hardly  necessary  to  observe  that  this  assertion,  that  the 
Child  Jesus  was  not  taught  by  His  parents,  in  no  wise  excludes  the 
mysterious  condescension  by  which  He  was  pleased  to  learn  from 
them  in  a  secondary  and  experimental  sense  ;  to  which,  indeed,  the 
Bishop  himself  immediately  afterwards  alludes,  where  he  speaks  of 
Jesus  sitting  at  their  feet,  hearing  them,  and  asking  them  questions. 

364  ST.    JOSEPH. 

admiration  might  have  reversed  the  words  of  our  prayer, 
and  have  besought  God  that  His  will  might  be  done  b] 
them  in  Heaven,  as  it  was  done  by  Jesus,  Mary,  an( 
Joseph  upon  earth.  For  thirty  years  was  Jesus  subject 
His  parents,  and  for  thirty  years  did  that  Paradise  oi 
Delights,  the  Holy  House  of  Nazareth,  continue  to  offe 
to  us  a  model  of  every  Christian  virtue,  a  type  anc 
pattern  of  what  our  homes  should  be,  or  which,  at  least 
according  to  their  measure,  they  should  imitate. 

"  Dear  children  in  Christ,  visit  in   spirit  that   Hoi; 
House.      Consider   its   poverty,   and   the   rudeness   an( 
simplicity  of  its  furniture.      Behold  also  the  exquisit 
cleanliness,  order,  and  neatness  which  is  manifested  ii 
every  detail.     Though  poor,  it  is  bright  and  cheerful, 
made  so  by  the  looks  and  words  of  loving  hearts,  and  the 
labours  of  loving  hands.      The  Eternal   God,   and   the 
Queen  of  Heaven  and  her   Spouse,  chose  not  to  have 
earthly  magnificence  around  them.     Had  they  possessed 
it,  they,  being  perfect,  would  have  sold  what  they  had, 
and  given  to  the  poor.     They  chose  the  better  part  of 
voluntary  poverty,  working  with  their  hands  that  even 
so  they  might  have  wherewith  to  give  to  those  who  were 
in  need.     They  knew  how  many  of  the  houses  of  their 
children  must  be  poor  and  destitute.      Therefore  they 
took  their  part  in  poverty  and  destitution,  to  show  that 
the  deepest  poverty  can  be  enriched  and  made  happy  by 
the  love  of  God  and  man. 

"  How  can  we  sufficiently  admire  the  unremitting,  un- 
complaining, self-sacrificing  toil  of  Joseph,  who  was 
honoured  by  the  Eternal  Father  with  the  office  of 
governing  and  working  for  His  Eternal  Son  and  the 
Ever-Blessed  Virgin  Mother  !  How  shall  we  wonder  at 
the  sweet,  gentle,  assiduous  labours  of  Mary,  watching 
over  the  comfort  of  her  husband  and  her  Child,  never 
forgetting  nor  omitting  anything  which  might  cheer  or 
alleviate  their  earthly  lot,  and  brightening  their  home 


with  her  beautiful  and  loving  smiles  !     How  shall  we 
adore  the  gracious  Child,  advancing  daily  in  wisdom,  and 
age,  and  grace  with  God  and  man,  manifesting  ever  more 
and  more  to  His  parents'  wondering  eyes  the  hidden  per- 
fections of  His  Godhead,  and  captivating  their  love  by 
His  reverent  obedience,  and  sweet  attentions,  and  gentle 
loving  ways  !     What  a  school  of  love  was  there  !     Jesus 
the  Ocean  of  created  love  and  charity ;    Mary  full  of 
grace   and  love   as   much   as   was  possible   to   a    pure 
creature ;    Joseph,    the   Guardian-Father   of   Jesus,    the 
Virgin- Husband  of  Mary,  the  Companion  and  Disciple  of 
both,  and  filled  by  God  with  that  supreme  love  which 
such  offices  required.     Every  kind  of  created  tenderness 
was  there,  following  upon  charity,  and  unspeakably  dear 
to  the  God  of  charity,  who  has  known  how  to  create  so 
many  varieties  and  sweetnesses  of  love  in  the  heart  of  man. 
There  was  the  ineffable  mutual  love  of  husband  for  wife 
and  of  wife  for  husband,  intensified  as  well  as  purified  by 
the  virginity  of  both.     There  was  the  love  of  father  and 
the  love  of  mother  for  their  Child ;   for  He  was  the  Child 
of  both,  pre-ordained  to  be  the  recompense  and  bond  of 
their  virginal  union.    There  was  the  love  of  the  Child  for 
His   parents,  intense   and  perfect,  as  must  have  been 
every  kind  of  love  in  the  Sacred  Heart  of  God.  .  .  . 
There  was  the   pattern  of   charity,  piety,  and  mutual 
service  and  kindness,  which  should  be  imitated  in  every 
Catholic  home.     There  was  also  a  pattern  of  religious 
observance  and  of  the  worship  of  God.     We  read  in  the 
Holy  Scriptures  how  perfectly  our  Lord  and  His  parents 
observed  the  law  of  Moses,  even  when  they  might  have 
justly  claimed  to  be  dispensed  from  it.     We  know  He 
and   His   Blessed    Mother   and   St.   Joseph    were   ever 
engaged   in   unceasing   love   and   contemplation   of   the 
Divinity.      We   can   imagine,    then,    something   of    the 
assiduity,  reverence,  and  devotion  of  the  spiritual  exer- 
cises of  the  Holy  Family  in  their  humble  home.     Prayer 



of  the  heart  without  ceasing,  prayer  in  common  many 
times  a  day,  prayer  undistracted,  prayer  made  with 
adoring  reverence  in  the  visible  presence  of  God,  prayer 
enriched  with  the  divine  blessing  of  Him  who  prayed. 
There  also  was  the  virtue  of  temperance  in  its  perfection . 
In  Jesus  and  Mary  it  found  no  evil  passion  to  restrain, 
and  in  Joseph  a  Saint  already  made  perfect  in  self- 
denial.  Yet  it  lost  nothing  of  its  perfection  or  of  the  ful- 
ness of  its  practice.  Obedience,  self-sacrifice,  humility, 
mortification  of  the  'appetites,  meekness,  chastity, 
modesty,  sobriety — all  concurred  to  the  holiness  and 
happiness  of  that  home." 

(  367  ) 



THE  inner  life  is  the  Jrue  life  of  a  man,  and  all  the 
splendour  and  merit  exhibited  in  the  visible  and 
sensible  actions  of  the  saints  have  their  principle  within 
and  their  source  in  the  heart,  hidden  from  men  and 
patent  to  God  only.  The  Eoyal  Prophet  was  well  per- 
suaded of  this  truth,  for,  after  his  panegyric  of  the 
surpassing  beauty  of  the  Spouse  who  had  won  the  heart 
of  the  Eternal  King,  he  confesses  that  it  is  needful  to 
look  within,  for  it  is  thence  that  all  her  glory  proceeds  : 
"  All  the  glory  of  the  King's  daughter  is  from  within  ".* 
We  may  safely  affirm  that  never  was  there  a  saint 
whose  life  was  so  interior  as  was  that  of  Joseph.  Duly 
to  honour  him,  then,  it  behoves  us,  with  the  aid  of  light 
from  above,  to  endeavour  to  penetrate  into  his  soul,  there 
to  admire  the  priceless  treasures  of  grace  and  the  virtues 
with  which  God  replenished  it,  especially  while  his  life 
was  "  hid  with  Christ  in  God  ".2  In  considering  this 
interior  life  of  Joseph  we  may  securely  take  as  our  guide 
the  pronouncement  of  Holy  Church,  and  adopt  her 
language  concerning  him  in  those  hymns  composed  in 
his  honour  which  have  been  admitted  into  her  divine 
offices.  Now,  what  does  she  say  ?  "  Others  after  a 
pious  death  attain  to  perfect  bliss,  but  thou,  O  Joseph, 
while  yet  living  on  earth  art  in  the  enjoyment  of  God,  like 

1  Psalm  xliv.  14.  2  Col.  in.  3. 

368  ST.    JOSEPH. 

to  the  saints  in  Heaven."  l  The  Holy  See  has  authorised 
these  words,  and  the  voices  of  countless  priests  have  con- 
secrated them  in  all  the  sanctuaries  of  our  holy  religion 
in  which  they  have  been  sung.  May  we  not  add  that 
they  have  been  in  a  manner  canonised  by  the  general 
veneration  with  which  they  have  been  received  and  re- 
echoed in  the  hearts  of  the  great  body  of  the  faithful  ? 
If,  then,  we  desire  to  know  what  was  the  life  which 
Joseph  led  while  on  earth,  that  secret  life,  that  life  of  the 
Spirit,  that  life  which  passes  between  God  and  the  soul, 
we  are  taught  by  the  Church  that  it  was  like  that  of  the 
Blessed  in  Heaven.  And  that  we  may  not  suppose  that 
there  is  any  exaggeration  in  such  an  estimate,  the  Church 
reiterates,  or  rather  re-inforces,  her  first  utterances, 
assuring  us  that  in  the  hidden  life  of  Joseph  privileges 
may  be  discerned  which  none  of  the  saints  in  Paradise 
enjoy.  His  lot  on  earth  surpassed  even  that  of  the 
saints  in  Heaven.2  This  suffices  us  ;  we  need  no  further 
description  of  the  interior  of  Joseph  than  that  with 
which  Holy  Church  has  herself  supplied  us. 

Now,  we  know  that  the  saints  in  Heaven  are  full  of 
light,  burning  with  love,  and  plunged  in  delights  inexpres- 
sible. Full  of  light,  because  penetrated  with  the  resplen- 
dent rays  and  receiving  the  powerful  impression  of  the 
Uncreated  Light  in  their  understandings ; 3  burning  with 
divine  love,  because  in  Heaven  they  behold  nothing  but 
what  is  lovable,  and  because  they  participate  in  their 
measure,  according  to  the  prayer  of  the  Son,  in  that  love 
which  unites  Him  and  His  Eternal  Father ; 4  immersed 
in  ineffable  joys,  because  in  Heaven  all  is  perfectly 
conformable  to  our  feelings  and  inclinations,  and  to  the 

1  "  Post  mortem  reliquos  mors  pia  consecrat :  tu  vivens,  superis 
par,  frueris  Deo." — Hymnusin  Festo  S.  Joseph,  die  xix.  Martii. 

2  "  Mira  sorte  beatior." — Ibid. 

3  "  In  Thy  light  shall  we  see  light.  "—Psalm  xxxv.  10. 
4  "  That  the  love  wherewith  Thou  hast  loved  Me  may  be  in  them, 
and  I  in  them."— St.  John  xvii.  26. 



spiritual  faculties  of  our  souls.  With  truth  is  the  bliss 
of  Heaven  called  "  the  joy  of  the  Lord," *  since  it  is  union 
with  Him  who  is  essential  Joy,  as  He  is  also  Light  and 
Love.  Such  also  was  Joseph's  life  on  earth  ;  full  of  light, 
burning  with  love,  and  plunged  in  ineffable  delight.  Nor 
let  it  be  supposed  that  any  contradiction  is  implied 
between  what  is  here  said  and  the  assertion  that  he  led 
a  life  of  inward  martyrdom,  a  martyrdom  of  love.  We 
shall  have  occasion  to  return  to  this  subject  hereafter ; 
it  may  be  sufficient  meanwhile  to  remark  that  the 
highest  joy  and  the  greatest  suffering  and  sorrow  are  not 
incompatible,  since  we  know  that  our  Lord's  Human 
Soul  possessed  the  Beatific  Vision  while  He  was  leading 
a  life  of  suffering  on  earth,  and  even  during  His  Passion, 
though  He  did  not  permit  His  inferior  nature  to  derive 
any  consolation  therefrom.  In  this  state  He  stands 
alone,  since  it  resulted  from  the  union  in  Him  of  two 
natures — the  divine  and  the  human — in  virtue  of  which 
His  human  soul  enjoyed  the  vision  of  God.  Still,  saints, 
in  their  degree,  and  after  His  pattern,  have  been  enabled 
to  rejoice  and  sorrow  at  the  same  time,  and  even  to 
exult  in  the  midst  of  the  keenest  anguish,  through  the 
grace  communicated  to  the  superior  region  of  their  souls. 
Scripture  teaches  us  that  there  are  two  principal  ways 
in  which  God  communicates  supernatural  light  to  His 
dearest  friends  on  earth.  The  first  is  through  prayer ;  and 
the  second  is  by  a  ray  of  divine  wisdom,  with  which  He 
graciously  enlightens  the  understanding.  Joseph,  then, 
during  his  whole  life  had  his  soul  raised  in  God,  "  the 
Father  of  Lights,"  2  by  the  highest  contemplation  ;  and, 
in  the  next  place,  this  great  God  united  him  to  Himself 
;  by  infusing  into  his  understanding  the  purest  rays  of 
i  His  infinite  wisdom.  Hence  his  soul  was  full  of  light.  If 
I  little,  comparatively,  is  said  by  the  Evangelists  respecting 
Joseph,  we  may  be  sure  that  that  little  has  always  a  special 

1  St.  Matthew  xxv.  21,  23.  2  St.  James  i.  17. 



370  ST.   JOSEPH. 

meaning,  which  we  should  do  well  to  study  and  examine. 
We  are  often  surprised  by  what  saints  and  doctors  of  the 
Church  have  extracted  out  of  certain  passages  of  Scrip- 
ture which  to  our  denser  spiritual  senses  would  not  have 
been  discernible.  When  St.  Luke  mentions  Joseph  and 
Mary  wondering  at  what  they  beheld  and  heard  on  find- 
ing Jesus  in  the  Temple,  many  holy  writers  have  believed 
that  this  was  no  ordinary  wonder.  The  Evangelist,  so 
parsimonious  of  his  words,  would  scarcely  have  recorded 
so  particularly  what  might  have  been  readily  supposed  of 
any  ordinary  parents.  It  has,  then,  been  believed  by 
saints  and  doctors  that  the  two  holy  spouses  were  rapt 
in  a  species  of  ecstasy,  that  highest  form  of  ecstasy  of 
which  the  most  perfect  souls  are  alone  capable,  and 
which  leaves  the  mind  in  the  full  exercise  of  its  faculties. 
For  the  suspension  of  the  senses  is  no  measure  of  the 
sublimity  of  the  rapture,  as  all  who  have  the  slightest 
acquaintance  with  mystical  theology  are  aware.  Far 
from  this,  it  is  a  well-known  fact  that  a  soul  new  to  such  . 
divine  favours,  and  but  moderately  advanced  in  the 
spiritual  life,  will  swoon  away  or  become  outwardly 
insensible  at  the  slightest  supernatural  communication, 
although  graces  of  a  much  higher  order  would  fail  so  to 
affect  one  who  was  more  familiar  with  these  divine 
operations,  and  who  had  made  greater  progress  in  the 
life  of  perfection.  That  our  Lady's  life  was  one  of 
almost  abiding  ecstasy  we  may  well  believe,  an  ecstasy 
indefinitely  heightened  by  every  fresh  manifestation  of 
the  glory  of  her  Divine  Son  ;  and  her  ecstatic  state 
must  have  surpassed  all  to  which  saints  have  been  raised. 
Nevertheless,  we  cannot  imagine  that  she  was  ever  de- 
prived of  the  use  of  her  external  senses  ;  and  of  holy 
Joseph  we  may  believe  the  same.1  How  do  we  suppose 

1  See  concerning  St.  Joseph's  ecstasies,  Eduardus  Vastorius, 
In  Enar.  Coruscationum  ;  Damianus,  Sermo  de  Natali  Domini  ;  Enar. 
xix. ;  and  Joannes  Bourgehesius,  in  Harmon.  Evang.  p.  75,  who 
says  that  St.  Joseph  was  in  almost  continual  ecstasy. 



he  was  interiorly  engaged  when  in  his  workshop  with 
Jesus  at  his  side  ?  Doubtless  he  was  in  silent  rapture, 
but  at  the  same  time  giving  full  exterior  attention  to  the 
work  in  which  his  hands  were  occupied.  And  how  was 
his  mind  employed  during  his  journeys  ?  It  was  contem- 
plating the  infinite  perfections  of  God-made-Man,  whom 
he  held  in  his  arms  or  led  by  his  hand.  'How,  also, 
during  his  exile,  apart  from  converse  with  men?  His 
life,  in  short,  was  a  continual  communication  with  God 
by  means  of  never-ceasing  prayer,  not  only  while  waking, 
but  even  while  sleeping,  as  several  doctors  opine. 

It  is  worthy  of  notice  that  whenever  the  angel  brought 
to  Joseph  any  command  from  God,  he  always  spoke  to 
him  when  sleeping.  This  singular  mode  of  apparition, 
we  have  good  authority  for  believing,  was  more  glorious 
than  that  which  has  been  customary  with  other  saints, 
and  was  a  mark  of  the  eminent  virtue  of  Joseph.  Such 
was  the  view  of  a  learned  interpreter  who  flourished 
more  than  eight  centuries  ago.1  We  may  fairly  conclude 
that  Gerson  had  the  same  thought  when  he  tells  us  that 
the  slumber  of  this  great  saint  was  not  an  effect  of  nature 
but  of  grace,  which  never  ceased  to  operate  in  his  soul 
at  those  times  when  he  gave  some  repose  to  his  body.2 
Or  rather,  did  not  Gerson,  with  many  other  doctors, 
mean  to  teach  us  thereby  that  Joseph  was  raised  to  that 
state  of  spiritual  silence  and  plunged  in  that  mystic  sleep 
during  which  contemplatives  discourse  with  God  after 
having  attained  to  the  most  perfect  union  with  Him? 
The  learned  Simon  de  Cassia,  indeed,  held  that  this  sleep 
of  our  saint  was  a  rapture,  one  of  those  ecstasies  which 
|  were  continual  during  almost  his  whole  life.3  St.  John 
i  Chrysostom  compares  the  sleep  of  Joseph  with  the  trance 
!  into  which  God  plunged  Adam  when  He  formed  Eve ; 4 

1  Christianus  Druthmaurs,  Exposit.  in  Matthceum,  cap.  iv. 

2  Josephina,  et  Opusculum  de  Conjugio  Joseph  et  Marios. 
3  Lib.  ii.  cap  xvi.  in  Evangelia.  4  Horn.  i.  in  Matthceum. 

372  ST.    JOSEPH. 

and,  since  many  doctors  judge  that  this  deep  sleep  or 
trance  of  the  first  man  was  an  ecstatic  slumber,  we  may 
readily  admit  that  the  sleep  of  Mary's  spouse  was 
akin  to  ecstasy,  and  that  his  slumber  was  mysterious  in 
its  character.  The  sleep  of  Peter  in  his  dungeon  and 
that  of  Joseph  differed  widely.  The  angel  caused  a  great 
splendour  to  fill  the  prison,  in  order  to  make  the  Apostle 
open  his  eyes ;  and  this  did  not  suffice,  until  the  blessed 
spirit  touched  him,  to  rouse  him  out  of  his  deep  slumber. 
But  each  time  that  the  angel  came  to  speak  to  Joseph 
when  sleeping,  he  had  only  to  present  himself  and  speak 
one  word  in  order  to  be  recognised,  heard,  and  obeyed; 
because  this  great  saint,  in  whom  the  exercises  of  nature 
scarcely  suspended  the  operations  of  grace,  slept  a  sleep 
more  resembling  an  ecstasy  than  a  common  slumber; 
and  it  was  easy  for  him  to  perceive  and  hearken  to  an 
angel  at  the  same  time  that  he  was  familiarly  conversing 
with  the  God  who  sent  him. 

In  order  to  taste  the  sweetness  of  contemplation,  it 
was  necessary  for  Arsenius,  that  solitary  so  famous  in 
ecclesiastical  history,  to  retire  into  the  desert.  "  Fly, 
Arsenius;  leave  the  world,  and  keep  silence,"  were  the 
words  by  which  the  angel  called  him  from  the  imperial 
court  into  solitude.  But  Joseph,  toiling  in  his  workshop, 
making  laborious  journeys,  and  daily  treating  for  the 
purposes  of  his  trade  with  persons  of  various  classes,  had 
his  spirit  always  perfectly  united  to  God  and  hidden  in 
a  mysterious  solitude.  The  spouse  in  the  Canticle^  says 
that  her  spirit  watched  during  her  bodily  repose :  "  I  sleep, 
but  my  heart  watcheth  ".l  Joseph,  on  the  contrary,  might 
have  said  that  his  body  watched  while  his  spirit  slept, 
for,  according  to  the  Father  of  the  Church  just  quoted, 
while  his  exterior  senses  were  occupied  in  those  important 
affairs  with  which  Heaven  had  charged  him  for  the 
government  of  the  noblest  family  which  ever  existed  on 
1  Chap.  v.  2. 



earth,  his  spirit  was  always  in  a  mystic  sleep  conversing 
with  God,  having  been  raised  by  contemplation  above  all 
created  things,  and  separated  from  all  the  importunate 
ideas  which  sensible  objects  suggest ; l  almost  after  the 
manner  in  which  angels  perform  their  offices  on  earth 
without  losing  either  the  memory  or  the  savour  of 
heavenly  things.  The  Archangel  Gabriel,  when  treating 
with  the  Blessed  Virgin  of  the  mystery  of  the  Incarna- 
tion of  the  Word,  was  not  distracted  from  the  contem- 
plation of  the  Supreme  Good ;  nor  did  Eaphael  cease  to 
fix  his  eyes  on  God  while  acting  as  guide  and  companion 
to  the  young  Tobias.  Our  Lord,  indeed,  expressly  tells 
us  that  the  angel-guardian  of  every  little  child  beholds 
the  face  of  His  Father  in  Heaven.  St.  Athanasius  lays 
it  down  as  almost  an  impossibility  that  Joseph  could  for 
a  moment  turn  away  his  mind  from  the  contemplation  of 
heavenly  things.2  The  young  Tobias,  says  St.  Augustine, 
led  his  blind  father  by  the  hand  to  guide  him  on  his  way 
while  that  ancient  saint  taught  his  son  the  road  to 
Heaven  by  his  salutary  counsels ;  but  we  may  say,  on 
the  contrary,  that,  while  Joseph  guided  Jesus  on  His 
journeys,  his  own  soul  was  rapt  into  the  empyrean  by 
profound  contemplation,  to  which  the  Divine  Infant  drew 

How  much  we  should  love  to  know  the  nature  of  this 
high  contemplation  of  our  saint  while  he  held  Jesus  in 
his  arms !  He  does  not  tell  us ;  he  speaks  not,  either 
because  his  tongue  is  unable  to  describe  the  greatness  of 
those  things  which  God  manifests  to  him,  or  because 
words  must  cease  in  the  mouth  of  one  whose  spirit  no 
longer  discourses,  since  it  has  found  its  joy  and  perfect 
repose  in  one  idea  which  occupies  and  fills  it.  If  fervour 
of  heart  should  unloose  the  tongue  in  contemplation,  it 
will  only  be,  says  St.  John  Climacus,  to  form  one  word. 

1  Horn.  iv.  in  Malthceum. 
2  Sermo  de  Descriptione  Domince  Nostrce  Marice. 

374  ST.V  JOSEPH. 

"  Master !"  exclaimed  Magdalen,  in  the  ecstasy  which 
the  sight  of  the  risen  Saviour  caused  her.1  "  My  Lord  and 
my  God ! "  were  the  sole  words  which  the  Apostle 
Thomas  could  utter  when  called  to  touch  the  wounds  of 
Jesus.2  "  O  Goodness  !  "  was  St.  Bruno's  ejaculation 
when  in  prayer.  "  My  God  and  my  all !  "  were  the  sole 
words  which  the  tongue  of  the  great  St.  Francis  of  Assisi 
could  pronounce  during  his  long  and  delicious  contem- 
plations. St,  Louis,  Bishop  of  Toulouse,  spent  his  time 
of  prayer  in  saying  these  three,  words :  "  God  suffices 
me  ".  It  needed  only  the  exclamation,  "  0  Charity  !  "  to 
send  St.  Francis  of  Paula  into  an  ecstasy ;  scarcely  had 
he  uttered  it  when  his  spirit  was  raised  above  all  created 
things  into  closest  union  with  God.  Thus  we  may  be- 
lieve that  during  his  continual  prayer  Joseph  could  only 
say,  "  O  Jesus,  my  Son  !  "  and  that  in  pronouncing  these 
words  his  spirit  would  enter  into  the  profoundest  con- 
templation of  the  infinite  perfections  of  the  God-made- 
Man.  If  the  prayer  of  the  contemplative  is,  as  we  may 
say,  only  one  word  addressed  to  God,  so  also  it  is  but 
one  word  that  God  on  His  part  causes  the  contemplative 
soul  to  hear.  Witness  what  the  Evangelist  relates  of 
Jesus,  who  said  only  "  Mary  "  when  making  Himself 
known  to  her  who  in  her  rapture  could  say  only 
"Master".  In  the  same  way  we  may  imagine  the 
Infant  Saviour  saying  only  to  our  contemplative  saint, 
"Joseph,  My  father,"  but  in  these  words,  accompanied 
with  tender  embraces,  He  says  all  things  to  him.  As  we 
know  that  the  Eternal  Father  and  His  Only  Son  have 
for  the  everlasting  ages  uttered  but  one  single  word,  Eac 
to  Other,  a  word  which  exceeds  all  discourse,  for  it  coi 
prehends  all  things,  and  will  continue  to  utter  it  for  ever, 
word  which  never  ceases,  but  is  repeated  through  eternity; 

1  St.  John  xx.  16.  2  Ibid,  verse  28. 

3  "  God  hath  spoken  once  "  (Psalm  Ixi.  12).     St.  Augustine  thi 
expounds  this  passage. 


so  also  the  earthly  father  of  Jesus  and  this  beloved 
Son-made-Man  spoke  few  words  during  the  long  period 
of  their  association,  but  undoubtedly  they  treated  each 
other  as  father  and  son ;  and,  in  saying  this,  we 
say  what  furnishes  abundant  matter  for  contemplation, 
and,  indeed,  it  contains  more  than  we  are  able  to  grasp 
or  comprehend ;  for  it  would  be  necessary  to  penetrate 
into  the  very  depths  of  the  interior  of  Joseph's  soul  as 
well  as  that  of  our  Divine  Lord  to  understand  its  full 

St.  John  the  Evangelist  enjoyed  for  a  brief  hour  a  bliss- 
ful ecstasy  while  reclining  on  the  Bosom  of  the  Saviour, 
but  how  many  times  did  not  the  Saviour  Himself  take  His 
repose  on  that  of  Joseph,  and  sleep  sweetly  in  his  arms ! 
Every  kind  of  divine  and  human  light  inclosed  in  the 
Heart  of  the  Saviour  must,  in  a  sense,  have  been  infused 
into  the  soul  of  Joseph,  when  He  thus  lovingly  reposed 
in  his  embrace.  "  Come  ye  to  Him  and  be  enlightened," 
says  the  Eoyal  Prophet.1  But  how  could  Joseph 
approach  nearer  to  Him  ?  He  has  Him  in  his  arms, 
resting  on  his  bosom.  Jesus,  then,  does  not  treat 
Joseph  merely  as  a  friend,  to  which  privilege  He  ad- 
mitted His  Apostles,  communicating  to  them  some  of 
His  secrets,2  but  as  a  father,  raising  his  spirit  to  under- 
stand the  highest  mysteries  ;  so  that,  if  we  are  to  credit 
St.  Bernardine,8  we  must  place  the  incomparable  Joseph 
at  the  head  of  all  the  greatest  contemplatives,  since  he 
lived  in  a  continual  state  of  contemplation,  in  its  most 
exalted  form.  His  life  was,  therefore,  a  life  of  divine 
illumination ;  and,  if  the  Israelites  could  not  endure  to 
look  on  the  face  of  Moses  when  he  came  down  from  con- 
verse with  God  on  the  Mount  by  reason  of  its  dazzling 
brightness,  so  we  may  conceive  that  the  very  angels 
themselves  beheld  with  astonishment  the  radiance  of 

1  Psalm  xxxiii.  6.  2  St.  John  xv.  15. 

3  Sermo  de  S.  Joseph. 



Joseph's  countenance,  when,  raising  his  spirit  to  God  by 
contemplation,  God  came  to  him  in  resplendent  beams 
of  light,  imparting  to  him  a  thousand  extraordinary  gifts 
for  the  perfect  illumination  of  his  soul. 

(  377  ) 


are  two  perfections  which  we  are  called  upon 
JL  specially  to  admire  in  Joseph  :  his  most  singular 
faith  and  his  eminent  supernatural  wisdom.  These  were 
two  rays,  as  it  were,  of  the  Divine  understanding  descend- 
ing into  the  mind  of  Joseph. 

God  endowed  him  with  the  most  lively  faith  which 
any  saint  ever  received  —  always  excepting  the  great 
Mother  of  God  —  and  this  alone  merited  for  him  the  title  of 
"  just,"  as  a  great  Cardinal  has  observed.1  Again,  what 
light  must  he  have  possessed  to  believe,  simply  on  hear- 
ing the  few  words  which  the  angel  spoke,  more  mysteries 
than  had  been  proposed  in  the  course  of  many  centuries 
to  all  the  ancient  Patriarchs  and  Prophets  of  the  Old 
Testament  !  We  are  so  accustomed  to  the  Gospel  narra- 
tive that,  perhaps,  we  have  never  sufficiently  realised  St. 
Joseph's  merit  in  this  matter.  Yet,  as  we  have  observed, 
what  the  Evangelists  do  not  say  is  as  full  of  meaning  as 
what  they  do  say.  St.  Matthew  tells  us  how  the  angel 
said  to  Joseph,  "  Joseph,  son  of  David,  fear  not  to  take 
unto  thee  Mary  thy  wife,  for  that  which  is  conceived  in 
her  is  of  the  Holy  Ghost  ;  and  she  shall  bring  forth  a 
son,  and  thou  shalt  call  His  name  Jesus,  for  He  shall 
save  His  people  from  their  sins  "  ;2  but  what  he  does  not 
tell  us  is  that  Joseph  uttered  a  word  in  reply  or  asked  a 
single  question.  Yet  in  this  sleep  of  his  there  were 

1  Jacob  Card,  de  Vitriaco,  Sermo  in  Vigil,  Nativ.  Domini. 
2  Chap.  i.  20,  21. 

378  ST.   JOSEPH. 

revealed  to  our  saint  the  mysteries  of  the  Trinity,  the 
Incarnation,  the  Bedeniption,  and  Eeconciliation  of  man 
to  God.  He  was  called  to  believe  that  a  Virgin  should 
become  a  mother,  and  that  the  son  she  had  conceived 
was  God  Himself;  that  this  child  was  to  deliver  his 
people,  not,  as  his  countrymen  all  expected,  from  the 
dominion  of  the  Romans,  but  from  the  slavery  of  sin  and 
the  tyranny  of  the  devil ;  in  fine,  he  was  required  to 
believe  all  these  mysteries  as  contained  in  the  angel's 
message  to  him,  and  on  his  testimony  alone,  without  any 
miraculous  guarantee  that  he  spoke  on  the  part  of  God. 
Oh,  the  sublime  faith  of  Joseph !  "  O  holy  and  just 
Joseph,"  exclaims  an  illustrious  Cardinal,1  "  who  didst 
believe  at  once,  and  most  firmly,  so  many,  so  new,  and 
so  unheard-of  things ! "  Thou  didst  despoil  thyself  of  thy 
own  lights,  to  submit  thy  spirit  to  the  word  of  an  angel, 
penetrating,  in  an  instant,  and  at  their  first  announce- 
ment to  thee,  so  many  and  such  deep  truths.  Thou 
neededst  not  the  stimulus  of  miracles,  which  have  been  so 
necessary  in  order  to  lead  other  men  to  humble  their 
souls  and  take  upon 'them  the  yoke  of  the  faith  ;  neither 
wast  thou  won  thereto  by  the  knowledge  which  we  now 
possess,  that  for  ages  since  the  coming  of  the  Messias  so 
many  nations  and  countless  souls  have  embraced  it.  All 
this  weight  of  evidence  thou  didst  lack,  but  for  the 
assurance  of  thy  faith  thou  didst  ask  no  greater  pledge 
or  proof  than  Heaven  was  pleased  to  grant  thee. 

We  have  in  Holy  Scripture  no  instance  of  faith  equ* 
to  that  of  Joseph.  Compare  Gedeon's  behaviour  whei 
an  angel  came  to  tell  him,  in  the  name  of  the  Lord,  thf 
he  should  deliver  Israel  out  of  the  hand  of  Madian.  That 
"most  valiant  of  men"  required  more  than  one  mil 
culous  sign,2  and  those  of  his  own  selection,  both 
ascertain  who  it  was  that  spoke  to  him,  and  also 

1  Cardinal  de  Cambrai,  Trad,  da,  S.  Josepho. 
2  Judges  vi.  17,  36-40. 


encourage  him  to  lead  the  people  forth  to  battle.  And 
this  defect  of  perfect  faith  we  meet  with,  not  only  in  the 
Old  Testament,  but  also  in  the  New.  Some  great  saints 
who  lived  in  the  times  of  Jesus  and  of  His  Apostles 
exhibited  weakness  of  this  character.  Zachary  has  the 
testimony  of  the  Evangelist  that  he  "  walked  in  all  the 
commandments  and  justifications  of  the  Lord  without 
blame,"1  still  he  required  something  more  than  an 
angel's  word  to  believe  that  his  wife  should  bear  a  son  in 
her  old  age.  Yet  he  might  have  called  to  mind  that  such 
a  miracle  was  not  without  precedent,  since  God  had 
vouchsafed  a  similar  boon  to  Abraham,  the  father  of  the 
faithful,  and  to  his  wife,  Sara.  What  comparison,  there- 
fore, could  there  be  between  the  demand  made  upon 
Zachary's  faith  and  that  which  was  required  of  Joseph? 
Moreover,  the  angel  spoke  to  Joseph  only  in  his  sleep, 
while  to  Zachary  he  solemnly  appeared  while  engaged  in 
the  holy  functions  of  his  office,  standing  on  the  right  side 
of  the  altar  of  incense.2  Yet  he  'doubted,  and  said, 
"  Whereby  shall  I  know  this  ?  " 3  Ananias  was  bidden, 
not  by  an  angel,  but  by  the  Lord  Himself,  in  a  vision,  to 
go  and  restore  his  sight  to  Saul  of  Tarsus ;  yet  so  alarmed 
was  he  at  the  very  sound  of  the  fierce  persecutor's  name 
that  he  ventured  on  a  remonstrance,  telling  the  Lord, — 
almost,  one  might  say,  as  if  He  who  knoweth  all  things 
was  not  fully  acquainted  with  the  circumstances  or  hardly 
appreciated  the  danger  of  the  commission  He  was  giving 
him, — how  much  evil  this  man  had  done  to  His  saints 
at  Jerusalem,  and  how  he  had  received  authority  at 
Damascus  to  bind  all  who  should  invoke  His  Name ;  and 
it  was  necessary  for  the  Lord  to  reiterate  His  command 
and  assure  His  faltering  servant  how  Saul  was  a  vessel 
of  election  before  he  did  His  bidding.4 

Scripture,  often  sparing  of  details,  is  always  particular 

1  St.  Luke  i.  6.  2  Verse  11.  3  Ibid.  v.  18. 

4  Acts  ix.  10-15. 

380  ST.    JOSEPH. 

in  giving  us  word  for  word  the  objections  and  difficulties 
made  by  servants  of  God  to  divine  intimations  and  com- 
mands, whether  through  slowness  of  faith  or  lack  of 
courage.  The  absence,  therefore,  in  the  case  of  Joseph, 
upon  every  such  occasion,  of  all  reply  or  even  request  for 
explanation  is  full  of  significance  ;  a  significance  which 
we  are  bound  to  notice,  because  it  is  meant  that  we 
should  do  so.  Joseph  always  believed  without  hesita- 
tion; and  this,  not  because  what  was  proposed  to  his 
belief  was  easy,  or  that  this  great  saint  did  not  possess  a 
mind  capable  of  perceiving  the  profundity  and  the  diffi- 
culties of  the  mysteries  declared  to  him;  far  from  it. 
Joseph  was  gifted  with  a  mind  of  large  capacities,  which 
he  had  cultivated  and  fortified  during  his  whole  life  by 
meditation  on  heavenly  things.  He  also  obeyed  without 
remonstrance  or  delay ;  and  this,  not  because  the  com- 
mands laid  upon  him  involved  nothing  arduous  in  their 
execution  :  witness  his  rising  in  the  middle  of  the  night 
to  flee  into  Egypt,  and  asking  none  of  those  questions 
which  human  prudence  would  have  suggested  before 
encountering  the  many  privations,  sufferings,  and  dangers 
of  such  a  journey,  not  for  himself  alone,  but  for  the  two 
persons  whom  he  loved  incomparably  more  than  he  loved 
himself.  And  how  are  we  to  account  for  all  this  ? 
is  it  that  on  the  angel  proposing  to  him  things  so  hard 
to  believe  and  difficult  to  execute,  and  Joseph  being  fulb 
competent  to  perceive  all  that  was  apparently  incredible 
in  the  promises  of  Heaven  and  startling  in  the  orders 
conveyed  to  him,  nevertheless  he  behaved  as  if  the  fullest 
demonstration  had  convinced  his  understanding,  and  th< 
most  complete  experience  or  acquired  knowledge 
smoothed  all  the  seeming  obstacles  which  stood  in  th< 
way  of  obedience  ?  It  is  because  this  admirable  saint 
had  received  from  God  the  most  excellent  gift  of  faith, 
and  because  his  mind  was  penetrated  with  the  rays  of 
that  supernatural  light  which  causes  us  to  adhere  to  all 


that  God  has  revealed  to  us.  It  was  because  he  lived  a 
life  of  light  on  earth,  so  that  in  him  faith,  in  itself 
obscure,  was  associated  with  an  illumination  so  brilliant 
that  it  resembled  that  light  of  glory  which  fills  the 
understandings  of  the  Blessed  in  Heaven.  The  Fathers 
of  the  Church  are  frequent  in  their  admiration  of  Joseph's 
undoubting  faith.  St.  Irenaeus,1  St.  John  Chrysostom, 
St.  Jerome,  and  St.  Augustine,  as  well  as  others,  might 
all  be  quoted  to  this  effect.  St.  Anselm  (or  the  author 
who  goes  by  his  name)  has  a  pleasing  and  ingenious 
remark  as  to  why,  when  the  angel  bade  Joseph  return 
into  the  land  of  Israel,  he  did  not  give  him  fuller  direc- 
tions. It  was,  he  says,  because  he  desired  to  have  to 
return  to  speak  to  him  again.2  It  was  a  pleasure  to  this 
exalted  spirit  to  witness  the  greatness  of  Joseph's  faith 
and  the  submission  of  his  spirit  to  all  the  revelations  of 
Heaven.  St.  Augustine,  perhaps  above  all,  gives  the 
highest  commendation  to  the  faith  of  Joseph  when  he 
compares  it  to  that  of  our  Lady  herself,3  whom  her 
cousin,  St.  Elizabeth,  filled  with  the  Holy  Ghost,  ad- 
dressed as  "  blessed  art  thou  who  hast  believed  ".4 

The  supernatural  light  which  Joseph  received  along 
with  this  eminent  faith  endowed  his  soul  with  the  most 
singular  prudence  and  wisdom,  gifts  which  in  the  natural 
order  he  had  already  possessed  in  a  remarkable  degree  ; 
for  this  exalted  prudence  and  wisdom  was,  indeed, 
requisite  in  one  to  whom  was  intrusted  a  higher  office 
than  was  ever  confided  to  the  very  angels  themselves. 
Sufficient  proof  is  afforded  to  us  of  the  eminent  super- 
natural wisdom  possessed  by  Joseph,  in  our  Lady's 
behaviour  when  he  communicated  to  her  the  orders  he 
had  received  from  Heaven  to  flee  into  Egypt.  Did  not 
Mary  know  that  this  journey  must  be  full  of  hardships 
and  perils,  and  was  not  the  safety  and  preservation  of 

1  Adversus  Hcereses,  cap.  xl.  2  In  Matthceum,  cap.  ii. 

3  DC  Nupt.  et  Concep.  cap.  xi.  4  St.  Luke  i.  45. 

382  ST.    JOSEPH. 

her  Divine  Son  the  dearest  object  of  her  heart  ?  Was 
she  ignorant  of  the  additional  danger  involved  in  this 
sudden  departure  in  the  darkness  and  cold  of  a  winter's 
night,  unprepared  and  unprovided  as  they  were?  Yet 
she  asked  not  a  question  to  assure  herself  of  the  certainty 
of  Joseph's  vision  in  slumber.  She,  so  enlightened  in 
heavenly  mysteries,  must  have  known  how  difficult  and 
delicate  a  thing  it  is  to  pronounce  upon  the  truth  of  a 
revelation,  since  bad  angels  as  well  as  good  not  only  can 
manifest  themselves  to  our  exterior  senses,  but  may  have 
access  to  our  imaginations.  Nay,  even  in  the  case  of 
purely  intellectual  visions,  of  which  God  alone  can  be 
the  author,  since  He  alone  can  penetrate  into  the  spirit 
of  man,  it  is  very  difficult  and  needs  a  high  gift  of  dis- 
cernment to  distinguish  them  with  certainty  from  those 
which  are  formed  by  the  ideas  residing  in  the  imagina- 
tion. All  this,  as  being  deeply  conversant  with  the 
secrets  of  the  inner  and  mystical  life,  Mary  well  knew. 
Was  it  not  natural,  then, — would  it  not  seem  to  have 
been  her  duty, — under  the  supposition  of  any,  the 
slightest,  doubt,  to  ask  her  spouse  to  explain  the  circum- 
stances of  this  vision  in  sleep,  in  order  to  be  sure  that  it 
was  a  supernatural  operation,  not  an  illusion?  St. 
Epiphanius 1  asks  where  is  the  caution  and  the  prudence 
which  Mary  had  evinced  when  heretofore  she  addressed 
that  question  to  the  angel :  "  How  shall  this  be  done  ?  "' 
And  yet  it  seemed  as  incredible  that  a  God  should  be 
forced  to  take  refuge  amongst  idolaters  to  save  His  life, 
as  that  a  maiden  should  become  a  mother  without  losing 
her  virginity.  No  one  could  have  blamed  Mary  if  she 
had  asked  for  some  explanation,  nor  would  our  saint,  we 
may  rest  assured,  have  made  the  least  difficulty  in  satis- 
fying her  anxiety,  had  she  expressed  any  on' the  subject. 
But  the  Holy  Virgin,  without  replying  a  word  or  spend- 
ing a  moment  on  examining  the  revelation  with  which 
1  Adversus  Hcereses,  cap.  li.  2  St.  Luke  i.  34. 


he  acquainted  her,  arose  without  delay ;  in  which  she 
not  only  gave  a  proof  of  perfect  submission,  but  observed 
the  rules  of  a  prudence  altogether  divine  ;  for  she  was  so 
entirely  convinced  of  the  wisdom  of  Joseph  and  of  his 
supernatural  penetration,  enabling  him  to  comprehend 
the  most  exalted  mysteries,  that  she  venerated  his  words 
as  oracles,  knowing  that  one  to  whom  God  had  accorded 
so  much  light  could  never  hold  what  was  false  to  be 

This  testimony  which  the  Blessed  Virgin  gave  on  this 
occasion  to  the  wisdom  of  Joseph  is  the  highest  conceiv- 
able, when  we  consider  the  surpassing  light  which 
illuminated  her  own  spirit.  Her  unquestioning  obedi- 
ence to  his  directions  in  a  matter  of  such  inappreciable 
importance,  and  the  estimation  in  which  she  clearly  held 
his  guidance,  are  more  glorious  to  him  than  if  all  living 
creatures,  the  angels  included,  had  united  in  praising 
him.  God  had,  in  fact,  bestowed  on  Joseph  so  excellent  a 
gift  of  wisdom  that  it  enabled  him  at  once  to  distinguish 
mysterious  from  natural  slumbers,  the  voice  of  angels 
from  that  of  bad  spirits  in  their  disguise,  and  the  revela- 
tions of  God  from  the  workings  of  the  imagination.  And 
Mary  knew  it. 

(  384  ) 


HEAVEN  is  the  birth-place  and  home  of  love.  Its 
blessed  inhabitants  love  much,  love  for  ever,  and 
love  only  what  is  worthy  of  love.  Joseph,  however,  was 
blessed  by  anticipation,  for  he  passed  all  his  days  in  the 
exercise  of  divine  love,  and  lived  a  life  of  love  upon 
earth.  The  Evangelists  do  not  record  a  single  word  of 
this  great  saint;  he  observed,  indeed,  a  marvellous  silence. 
Not,  however,  an  ungracious  silence.  The  silence  of 
ordinary  men,  as  well  as  their  irrepressible  flow  of  words, 
is  often  merely  selfish.  But  Joseph's  silence  and  his 
speech  were  alike  prompted  and  regulated  by  the  law  of 
charity,  a  law  which  excludes  both  garrulity,  on  the  one 
hand,  and,  on  the  other,  a  reserve-  which  might  offend. 
We  may,  therefore,  say  with  truth  that  Joseph  never 
uttered  a  superfluous  word  without  thereby  attributing  to 
him  a  taciturnity  which  would  have  rendered  him  unwel- 
come and  distasteful  to  his  neighbours.  His  words,  indeed, 
were  never  superfluous,  for  they  had  their  source  in  love, 
but  they  were  also  ruled  by  his  will,  not  forced  from  him  as 
the  expression  of  his  feelings.  Hence,  we  repeat,  Joseph's 
silence  was  marvellous.  How,  indeed,  would  he  whose 
heart  was  burning  with  the  sacred  love  of  Jesus  pour 
itself  forth  in  converse  with  men  ?  But  even  as  regards 
that  one  absorbing  occupation  of  his  hep.r{i,  his  words 
were  few.  True  love  is  not  talkative;  even  in  the  in- 
terior of  his  holy  home  Joseph  spoke  little ;  and  it  w 

HIS   LOVE    AND   LIFE    OF   BLISS.  385 

the  same  with  Mary,  his  spouse.  Their  hearts  met 
and  were  united  in  this  one  love,  and  few  words  were 
needed  to  express  mutually  what  they  inwardly  felt 
and  lived  upon.  But  we  shall  have  more  to  say  later  on 
of  Joseph's  silence  as  well  as  of  his  habitual  state  of 

When  God  elects  any  one  to  fill  a  high  office  or  under- 
take a  great  work,  He  gives  him,  not  only  a  correspond- 
ing elevation  of  mind,  but,  above  all,  much  largeness  of 
heart.  We  see  how  He  dealt  with  Solomon  to  fit  him  to 
rule  a  great  kingdom :  "  God  gave  to  Solomon  wisdom 
and  understanding  exceeding  much,  and  largeness  of 
heart  as  the  sand  that  is  on  the  sea-shore  ".1  So,  when 
He  prepared  Joseph  to  hold  the  place  of  father  to  the 
Saviour,  He  must  have  bestowed  on  him  a  heart  larger 
beyond  measure  than  what  He  gave  to  the  King  of  Israel, 
that  he  might  be  able  to  love  as  a  father  the  Son  of  God 
Himself;  and  this,  according  to  the  Abbot  Eupert,2  is 
what  the  Eternal  Father  did  when  He  called  Joseph  to 
a  participation,  not  only  of  His  dignity,  but  of  His  love 
as  a  father.  He  either  formed  in  him  an  entirely  new 
heart  or  infused  an  exceeding  increase  of  tenderness  into 
the  heart  which  he  already  possessed.  Certain  it  is  that  He 
filled  him  with  a  love  surpassing  in  generosity  and  fervour 
that  of  any  other  father ;  for  it  was  needful  that  Joseph's 
paternal  love  should  be  in  a  measure  proportioned  to  the 
perfections  of  this  Adorable  Son.  Natural  love  is  suffi- 
cient for  earthly  parents,  but  the  love  which  our  saint 
bore  to  Jesus,  as  His  appointed  father,  was  not  a  mere 
human  love,  it  was  also  a  supereminently  divine  love ; 
for,  in  loving  his  Son  he  was  exercising  the  most  perfect 
Jove  of  God ;  since  He  whom  he  called  his  Son  was  at 
the  same  time  his  God. 

As  in  creatures  all  is  finite,  so  all  is  capable  of  increase. 
What,  then,  may  we  imagine,  must  have  been  the  growth 

1  3  Kings  iv.  29.  2  In  Matthceum,  cap.  i. 



of  this  ardent  love  in  the  heart  of  our  saint  during  the 
long  period  which  he  spent  with  Jesus !  Those  things 
which  tend  naturally  to  add  to  human  love,  in  him 
ministered  fresh  fuel  to  the  divine  flame  within  him. 
The  constant  association  with  the  Son  of  God  made  Man 
and  given  to  him  as  his  own  Son,  the  serving  Him  and 
being  served  by  Him  for  thirty  years,  and,  we  must  add, 
their  marvellous  resemblance  created  a  bond  between 
them  which  was  unequalled  of  its  kind.  This  resem- 
blance, we  are  told,  by  that  devout  client  of  St.  Joseph, 
the  Chancellor  Gerson,  in  his  magnificent  panegyric  of 
the  Saint  before  the  Council  of  Constance,  was  most  re- 
markable in  his  countenance  and  even  in  all  his  outward 
demeanour.  This  likeness  would  be  to  a  certain  extent 
natural,  inasmuch  as  Joseph  was  nearly  related  to  Mary, 
but  it  was,  moreover,  the  expression  and  result  of  that  ex- 
traordinary similarity  of*  temperament  and  disposition 
which  bound  together  Jesus  and  Joseph  by  a  greater  natural 
sympathy  than  had  ever  existed  between  two  individuals. 
And,  as  nature  thus  tends  through  consanguinity  to  pro 
duce  a  resemblance  which  fosters  love,  and  as  its  pow 
in  their  case  had  been  peculiarly  enhanced,  so  may 
also  be  piously  believed  (as  has  been  already  suggested)  tha 
the  Holy  Ghost  in  forming  the  Body  of  the  Incarnate 
Word  heightened  this  similarity  and  conformity  in  su< 
a  manner  as  to  add  a  supernatural  character  to  t! 
relationship  which  was  to  unite  Jesus  with  Joseph  by 
closer  bond  than  ever  united  a  son  to  his  human  father. 

Another  powerful  source  of  love  is  mutual  knowled 
Without  some  kind  of  knowledge  there  can,  properly, 
no  love ;   and,  generally  speaking,  those  love  our  Lo 
best  who  have  the  greatest  knowledge  of  His  perfection 
But   to  whom  were  those   adorable  perfections    m 
known  so  fully  as  to  Joseph ;  to  whom  first — with  th 
exception  of  Mary — was  revealed  His  Name  of  Savio 
which  contains  them  all  in  compendium  ?     How  exal 



HIS   LOVE    AND   LIFE    OF   BLISS.  387 

must  have  been  Joseph's  perception  of  the  majesty  of 
the  Incarnate  Word,  inclosed  in  the  sacred  womb  of  the 
Virgin,  even  previously  to  this  revelation,  since  it  was 
needful  for  an  angel  to  descend  from  Heaven  to  prevent 
his    withdrawing    from  his    august    spouse,   as  in  his 
humility  he  was  about  to  do !     Such  is  the  opinion,  at 
least,  of  many  holy  doctors,  as  being  the  most  probable, 
and,  at  the  same  time,  the  most  honourable  to  Joseph 
and  to  our  Blessed  Lady.     It  was  given  to  Joseph  to  be 
the  first  to  know  and  become  enamoured  of  the  riches 
of  the  Saviour  in  the  poverty  of  the  crib,  and  lovingly  to 
adore  the  splendour  of  His  glory  in  the  obscurity  of  the 
stable.    The  familiarity  to  which  he  was  admitted  with  the 
Divine  Babe,  and  all  the  mysteries  of  the  Infancy,  must 
have  inundated  His  soul  with  ineffable  sweetness.     Mary 
pondered  them  in  her  heart,  and  so  did  Joseph  likewise ; 
and  all  were  food  for  love.     And  what  shall  we  say  of 
the  thirty  years  ?    Who,  save  the  Blessed  Mother  her- 
self, ever  enjoyed  so  close  and  prolonged   an  intimacy 
with    Jesus   as    did    Joseph?      Who,   then,   can    have 
equalled  him  in  love  ?     Holy  souls  have  dwelt  on  the 
thought  that  for  many  long  miles  during  the  flight  into 
Egypt  Joseph  carried  Him  in  his  arms,  partly  to  shield 
Him  from  the  wintry  blast  in  the  folds  of  his  cloak,  and 
partly — especially  during  the  early  part  of  the  journey — 
to  conceal  Him ;   and  all  that  time  he  felt  the  beatings 
of  the  Sacred  Heart  against  his  own,  and  learned  secrets 
which  had  never  been    confided   even  to  the  blessed 
spirits  in  Heaven. 

Again,  how  much  does  suffering  nourish  love,  and 
endear  the  beloved  one  for  whom  the  suffering  is  under- 
gone !  We  see  this  constantly  in  the  case  of  fond 
parents.  But  .what  parent  ever  suffered  so  much  for  his 
son  as  did  Joseph  for  Jesus?  All  his  sufferings  were  on 
His  account,  and.  were  brought  upon;  him  because  he 
was  father  to  the  Messias.  He  was  the  first  to  suffer 

388  ST.    JOSEPH. 

persecution  for  Him.  The  martyrs  suffered  because  they 
were  disciples  of  the  Son  of  God,  but  Joseph  paid  the 
penalty  of  having  been  made  father  to  the  Incarnate 
Word.  All,  however,  that  he  endured  was  joy  unutter- 
able to  his  soul,  because  it  was  for  Jesus,  and  gladly 
would  he  have  welcomed  tenfold  more  cruel  sufferings, 
that  he  might  give  the  Saviour  fresh  proofs  of  the  tender 
love  of  his  heart.  And  what  father  ever  toiled  for  his 
son  as  did  Joseph  for  Jesus  ?  Other  fathers,  it  is  true, 
concern  themselves  much  for  their  children's  interests, 
still  those  children  are  not  their  exclusive  thought  or 
occupation.  But  Joseph  was  so  entirely  occupied  with 
the  interests  of  Jesus  that  everything  else  may  be  said  to 
have  had  no  place  in  his  thoughts,  or  to  have  been 
perceived  and  valued  only  as  subservient  to  that  one 

And  not  his  external  actions,  alone  were  given  to  this 
dear  Son,  whatever  labour,  trouble,  fatigue,  or  privation 
might  thus  be  involved;  but,  as  the  Incarnate  Word, 
like  His  Eternal  Father,  desires  to  be  served  in  spirit,1 
thus  also  did  Joseph  serve  Him,  never  permitting  his 
mind  to  form*  a  thought,  or  his  heart  to  entertain  an 
affection,  which  did  not  tend  to  the  service  of  Jesus. 
The  inordinate  fondness  which  not  a  few  parents  feel  fc 
their  children  is  the  unhappy  source  of  many  of  the  sii 
into  which  they  are  themselves  betrayed ;  but  Joseph's 
love  for  his  Son  could  be  only  a  source  of  sanctity  to  hii 
and  the  zeal  which  he  evinced  to  consecrate  his  whol 
being  to  His  service  is  an  incontestable  proof  of  tl 
sanctity,  as  well  as  the  fruit  of  the  love  which  he  boi 
Him.  For  this  love  and  this  sanctity  were,  in  fact,  01 
and  the  same  thing.  Jesus  was  his  God,  and,  in  lovii 
Him,  he  was  loving  the  Supreme  Good  as  the  bles 
love  Him  in  Heaven.  We  must  ever  bear  in  mind  tl 
there  was  this  singular  character  in  all  the  acts 
1  St.  John  iv.  24. 


Joseph,  whether  external  or  internal,  which  gave  them 
(as  Suarez  observes)  an  eminent  value.  They  were  per- 
formed immediately  towards  the  person  of  Christ,  so 
that,  just  as  the  sin  of  those  who  crucified  our  Lord  was 
increased  in  magnitude  by  the  dignity  of  His  person,  so 
with  much  fuller  reason  were  Joseph's  acts  of  piety  and 
love  towards  the  Person  of  Jesus  beyond  measure  en- 
hanced, since  he  performed  them  with  perfect  knowledge 
and  love  of  Him  who  was  their  object ;  a  knowledge  and 
a  love  surpassing  that  of  the  very  angels  themselves  and 
of  beatified  spirits. 

Joseph's  life  on  earth  was,  indeed  (as  we  have  said), 
an  anticipation  of  the  bliss  of  those  glorified  spirits. 
Bliss  implies  the  full  satisfaction  of  all  the  desires  of  the 
soul,  which,  having  obtained  what  it  sought,  and  possess- 
ing what  it  longed  for,  without  possibility  of  losing  it, 
has  ceased  from  all  solicitude  and  is  in  perfect  peace. 
The  soul  in  a  state  of  bliss  is  like  a  body  which  has  found 
the  centre  which  attracted  it,  and  where  it  remains 
undisturbed.  Men  are  continually  hoping  to  find  this 
repose  in  such  earthly  objects  as  allure  them,  but,  when 
they  have  obtained  them,  their  hearts  are  still  restless 
and  dissatisfied,  because  man  was  made  for  God,  the 
Supreme  and  Infinite  Good,  and  without  Him  cannot 
know  true  bliss.  But  in  Jesus  Joseph  possessed  his  God, 
he  possessed  Him  who  forms  the  joy  of  the  blessed  in 
Heaven  ;  and  hence  he  enjoyed  that  perfect  peace  which 
results  from  the  fulfilment  of  all  the  heart's  desires. 
Jesus  and  Mary  were  his ;  what  else  could  he  desire  ? 
If  anxiety  for  his  precious  charge  troubled  at  times  the 
surface,  so  to  say,  of  his  soul,  it  never  ruined  the  depths 
below — the  inner  man.  All  was  tranquillity  there.  His 
heart  was  always  replete  with  satisfaction.  No  man 
(says  a  learned  writer)  was  ever  so  blessed  on  earth  as 

1  Gaspar  a  Melo  Augustinianus,  in  Matthceum,  cap.  i. 

390  ST.    JOSEPH. 

Perfect  bliss  implies,  besides  the  possession  of  the 
desired  object,  the  soul's  full  appreciation  and  taste  of  it. 
In  order  that  this  spiritual  taste  should  be  intense  and 
penetrating,  the  soul  must  be  very  pure  and  joined  in 
closest  union  with  God  ;  for,  even  as  food  most  agreeable 
to  the  taste  can  impart  no  sweetness  to  the  palate  if  not 
in  contact  with  it,  so,  in  order  that  the  soul  may  taste 
God,  it  must  be  united  to  Him  perfectly.  Both  these 
conditions  were  found,  in  a  supereminent  degree,  in 
Joseph.  He  had  ever  led  a  most  pure  and  innocent  life, 
and  had  merited  (as  we  have  seen)  the  title  of  "just". 
His  obedience  to  God  was  so  entire  that  (according  to  St. 
John  Damascene l)  he  never  failed  during  his  whole  life 
to  observe  all  the  precepts  of  the  Law  with  an  exactness 
worthy  of  the  father  of  Him  who  came,  not  to  destroy 
the  Law,  but  to  fulfil  it.  •  This,  however,  would  have 
been  little  had  he  not  also  embraced  all  the  truths  of  the 
Christian  faith  ;  nay,  before  the  Gospel  was  published  he 
observed  all  the  Evangelical  counsels  with  an  unequalled 
perfection,  so  that  an  illustrious  Doctor  of  these  later 
times  describes  him  as  uniting  in  one  an  excellent  dis- 
ciple of  Moses,  an  incomparable  Christian,  and  a  spiritual 
man  of  the  highest  perfection.2  The  ancient  Joseph,  who 
in  his  purity,  as  in  other  things,  was  a  type  of  our  saint, 
spoke,  when  tempted  to  evil,  as  if  he  enjoyed  a  holy  im- 
possibility of  sinning :  "  How  can  I  do  this  wicked  thing,  and 
sin  against  my  God? '' 3  In  how  much  higher  a  degree  must 
this  have  been  true  of  our  Joseph,  penetrated  as  he  was  by 
such  great  lights  of  faith,  revealing  to  him  the  claims 
God  upon  our  fidelity  and  love  with  far  greater  clearnes 
than  the  Joseph  of  Genesis  could  have  possessed.  An( 
in  effect,  how  could  he  have  been  judged  worthy  of  tl 
honour  of  ruling  and  guiding  two  persons  who  were  ii 

1  Or  at.  i.  de  Dormitione  ;  Orat.  iii.  de  Nativitate. 

2  Simon  de  Cassia,  in  Evangdia,  lib.  ii.  cap.  i. 

8  Gen.  xxxix.  9. 

HIS   LOVE   AND   LIFE   OF   BLISS.  391 

peccable,  the  one  by  nature,  the  other  by  grace,  unless 
he,  too,  had  been  in  a  certain  sense  incapable  of  sinning? 
For  it  would  have  been  neither  reasonable  nor  becoming 
that  a  wandering  star  should  direct  the  movement  of 
those  heavenly  lights,  in  which  there  was  nothing  either 
defective  or  irregular.  St.  John  Chrysostom  invites  us 
to  witness  the  purity  of  his  soul,  never  stained  by  the 
corruption  of  sin ; l  and  the  learned  Nicetas  ascribes  to 
him  "  a  soul  irreprehensible  in  all  things".2  The  united 
Greeks  also  honour  him  in  their  hymns  and  prayers  as  a 
man  altogether  holy.  Such  a  one,  as  exempt  from  sin 
as  it  was  possible  for  a  creature  to  be,  was  marvellously 
disposed  and  fitted  to  taste  of  heavenly  sweetness.  We 
have  already  alluded  more  than  once  to  the  close  union 
of  the  soul  of  Joseph  with  Jesus,  a  union  so  close  that  it 
may  be  characterised  as  a  complete  transformation ;  that 
to  which  the  highest  contemplatives  aspire  in  this  life, 
and  in  which,  in  proportion  as  it  is  attained,  the  soul 
loses  itself  blissfully  in  God,  to  lead  henceforth  a  life 
altogether  heavenly. 

It  would  be  superfluous  to  add  more ;  particularly  as 
no  accumulation  of  words  or  of  comparisons  could  ade- 
quately explain  or  illustrate  a  state  so  singular  and  ex- 
ceptional as  that  to  which  Joseph  was  exalted.  Suffi- 
cient has  been  said  to  prove  that  the  soul  of  our  saint 
must  have  been  immersed  in  a  bliss  which  was,  in  a  way, 
similar  to  that  of  the  saints  in  Heaven.  St.  Irenseus 
affirms  that  he  served  Jesus  with  a  continual  joy;8  and  a 
Doctor  of  later  times  has  declared  his  belief  that  Joseph 
died  because  unable  any  longer  to  sustain  the  excess  of 
joy  caused  him  by  the  presence  of  the  Saviour.4 

But  one  main  difference,  a  difference  to  his  advantage, 

1  Horn.  iv.  in  Matthceum. 
2  Quoted  in  Catenas  Patrum  Grcecorum :  in  Matthceum,  cap.  i. 

3  Adversus  Hcereses,  lib.  iv.  cap.  xl. 
4  Joannes  Bourghesius,  in  Harmon.  Evang.  Ixxvi. 

392  ST.    JOSEPH. 

existed  between  the  bliss  of  Joseph  and  that  of  the  saints 
in  Heaven.  Great  as  is  their  joy  it  bears  no  fruit. 
Nothing  can  add  to  the  measure  of  their  essential 
beatitude,  because  nothing  can  now  increase  their  sanc- 
tity. Peter,  the  Prince  of  the  Apostles,  is  no  holier  now 
than  when  first  he  was  admitted  centuries  ago  to  behold 
the  Face  of  God  in  Heaven,  and  receive  his  everlasting 
reward.  But  Joseph,  plunged  in  an  ocean  of  joy  while 
yet  on  earth,  was  meriting  every  moment  its  further  in- 
crease, even  by  his  very  joys  themselves,  which  were  the 
fruit  of  love ;  and  that  love,  while  he  was  still  "  in  the 
way,"  was  a  merit  as  well  as  a  reward.  The  measure  of 
the  saints'  merits  who  have  arrived  at  the  goal  was  closed 
at  the  instant  of  their  death,  and  their  recompense  was 
determined,  which  could  henceforth  receive  no  addition 
save  what  was  accidental.  Joseph,  while  he  lived  on 
earth,  merited  its  increase  continually  by  his  practice 
the  most  excellent  virtues;  we  cannot  wonder,  then, 
his  joy  increased  to  such  a  degree  as  to  consume  his 
mortal  life,  as  the  Doctor  just  quoted  maintains.  Anotl 
source  of  the  growth  of  his  joys  may  be  found  in  the  pro- 
gressive display  of  the  glory  of  the  God-made-Man.  Fc 
the  Saviour,  accommodating  during  His  Infancy  the  mani- 
festation of  His  person  to  the  order  of  nature,  discovered 
this  beloved  father  fresh  rays  of  His  divine  perfections, 
He  advanced  in  age.1  One  day  he  would  give  proof 
His  infinite  wisdom,  another,  of  His  absolute  power  ove 
creatures ;  on  another  occasion  it  was  His  prudence  or 
His  mercy  which  He  would  exhibit.  This  Divine  Flower 
of  the  Field,  budding  and  blossoming  on  the  Eod  of 
Jesse,  day  by  day  unfolding  Its  lovely  flowers  and  giving 
forth  a  fragrance  of  Paradise,  must  have  filled  the  h< 
of  the  virgin-father  in  whose  garden  It  flourished  with  ai 
ever-increasing  delight. 

The  joys  of  Joseph  on  earth  had  also  more  extension  ihi 
1  St.  Luke  i.  52. 

HIS   LOVE   AND    LIFE    OP   BLISS.  393 

those  of  the  saints  in  Heaven,  because,  with  the  exception 
of  the  favoured  band  whose  bodies  were  raised  after 
the  Eesurrection  of  Jesus,  and  who  accompanied  Him  in 
His  glorious  Ascension,  only  the  souls  of  the  saints  enjoy 
beatitude,  their  bodies  awaiting  the  second  coming  of  our 
Lord.  But  the  soul  of  Joseph,  replete  with  spiritual 
delights  even  while  on  earth,  could  not  but  communicate 
to  his  body  a  special  felicity  ;  for,  if  the  unborn  Baptist 
leaped  for  joy  at  the  near  presence  of  Jesus  still  inclosed 
in  His  mother's  womb,  what  must  have  been  Joseph's 
sensible  joy  who  lived  ever  in  His  company !  The  sight 
of  Jesus  will  be  one  of  the  joys  of  our  bodily  eyes  after 
the  resurrection,  but  the  eyes  of  Joseph  had  this  joy 
while  he  was  on  earth.  Abraham  saw  His  day  from  afar, 
and  was  glad ; *  but  what  must  have  been  the  gladness 
of  Joseph  who  was  close  to  Him  for  nigh  upon  thirty 
years !  To  His  three  favoured  Apostles  He  showed 
Himself  only  once  in  His  glory,  when  He  was  trans- 
figured before  them  on  Mount  Thabor ;  but  we  can  have 
no  hesitation  in  believing,  with  a  holy  and  great  preacher,2 
that  to  Joseph  He  thus  manifested  Himself  not  once  only 
but  very  often ;  not  to  strengthen  his  faith,  but  to  reward 
it.  It  was  St.  Hilary's8  opinion  that  our  saint  recog- 
nised the  mystery  of  the  Incarnation  and  the  majesty  of 
the  hidden  Word  in  the  womb  of  the  Virgin  by  the 
resplendent  rays  which  invested  her  and  issued  from  her 
sacred  bosom.  This  splendour  (continues  the  same 
Father),  although  imperceptible  to  the  dull  eyes  of  other 
men,  was  so  dazzling  to  Joseph  that  he  forbore  to  look 
on  her  face  until  after  her  delivery.  The  Master  of 
Theologians,  who  examined  the  subject  with  scholastic 
rigour,  did  not  disapprove  of  the  opinion  held  on  this 

i  St.  John  viii  56. 

Bernardino  de  Bustis,  Sermo  xii.  de  Desponsatione  Beatce  Marios. 
3  Quoted  by  St.  Thomas,  in  Matthceum,  cap.  i. 

394  ST.    JOSEPH. 

subject  by  certain  Fathers,  of  the  Church,1  who  thus 
interpreted  a  passage  in  St.  Matthew  upon  which  the 
impugners  of  our  Blessed  Lady's  virginity  have  endea- 
voured to  fix  an  impious  and  revolting  meaning.  If  this 
Sun  of  Justice  shone  with  so  brilliant  a  light  while  yet 
in  Mary's  womb,  it  seems,  to  say  the  least,  highly  pro- 
bable that  when  He  had  come  forth  He  would  often 
allow  Joseph  to  behold  Him  enveloped  with  glory.  This 
view  is  confirmed  by  St.  Bridget's  revelations,  who 
assures  us  that  the  Blessed  Virgin  told  her  that  she  and 
Joseph  often  saw  Jesus  surrounded  with  light.2  And 
what  was  true  of  one  of  Joseph's  senses,  his  eyes,  was 
true  of  all  the  rest,  which  shared,  no  doubt,  in  the  joy  of 
his  soul.  No  music  could  equal  that  of  one  single  word 
from  the  mouth  of  Him  whose  voice  could  give  sight  to 
the  blind,  hearing  to  the  deaf,  and  raise  the  dead  to  life. 
But  what  could  have  been  comparable  to  the  delight  of 
the  Saint  when  receiving  the  caresses  of  his  Adorable 
Son,  and  even  the  kisses  of  His  divine  lips !  For  Jesus  - 
did  not  wait  for  Joseph  to  ask  this  favour  of  Him,  as  does 
the  spouse  in  the  Canticles — his  humility  would  have 
restrained  him — but,  as  St.  Bernard3  and  the  learned 
Gerson 4  both  teach,  anticipated  his  desire  by  clinging 
lovingly  to  his  neck  and  fondly  kissing  him  after  the 
manner  of  little  children.  These  tender  embraces  of  the 
Divine  Infant  must  have  filled  the  senses  as  well  as  the 
soul  of  Joseph  with  joy  and  delight  unspeakable. 

May  we  not,  then,  with  the  fullest  reason  accede  to  the 
Church  declaring  that  the  interior  life  of  Joseph  on  earth 
was  similar,  nay,  in  some  respects  superior,  to  that  of 
the  Blessed  Saints  in  Heaven  ? 

Before  leaving  this  subject  of  Joseph's  interior  life, 
which,  exalted  as  it  was,  above  all  that  any  of  his  devout 
clients  can  attempt  to  equal,  is  nevertheless  the 

.     :  See  Origen,  in  Matihceum,  .cap.  i.  2  Chap.  Iviii. 

3  Sermo  xliii.  in  Canticum.  4  Super  Magnificat. 

HIS   LOVE  AND   LIFE    OP   BLISS.  395 

and  pattern  of  all  interior  souls,  it  may  be  well  to  say  a 
few  words  more  concerning  his  abiding  state  of  contem- 
plation and  his  silence,  if  only  for  the  sake  of  obviating 
misconstruction.  This  is  the  more  necessary  because  the 
devil  is  not  slow  to  perceive  what  inappreciable  advan- 
tages are  to  be  derived  from  love  and  devotion  to  St. 
Joseph,  and  uses  his  wiliest  arts  to  keep  us  at  a  distance 
from  him.  Unable  to  persuade  us  that  Joseph  did  not 
enjoy  a  pre-eminence  in  sanctity,  as  he  doos  now  in 
glory,  through  his  association  with  the  Ever-Blessed 
Virgin  and  the  office  he  fulfilled  towards  the  Eternal  Son 
of  God,  the  evil  one,  under  the  pretext  of  exalting  him, 
would  at  least  endeavour,  by  obscuring  the  human  side 
of  his  character,  with  all  its  winning  graces,  to  diminish 
what  we  may  call  our  familiar  affection  for  him;  for 
familiarity  is  not  in  itself  derogatory  to  genuine  respect 
and  veneration,  as  every  page  in  the  Gospel  history 
relating  the  intercourse  of  Jesus  with  His  Apostles 
amply  proves.  This,  we  believe,  is  to  many  a  very 
hurtful  idea,  leading  also,  as  it  does,  to  the  persuasion 
that  heroic  sanctity  cannot  accommodate  itself  to  nature. 
When,  therefore,  it  is  asserted,  as  we  have  seen  it  is  by 
several  holy  doctors,  that  Joseph's  life  was  one  of  un- 
ceasing contemplation,  or  ecstasy,  as  it  may  be  called,  it 
must  never  be  supposed  that  this  inward  attention  to 
God  produced  a  state  of  absorption  which  unfitted  him 
for  the  charities  and  amenities  of  life.  We  have  said 
already  that  it  was  of  that  kind  which  left  the  fullest 
exercise  to  all  the  lower  faculties  of  the  mind  as  well  as 
to  the  senses,  and,  as  such,  it  never  obtruded  itself  on 
the  notice  of  i  others,  being  far  removed  from  that  rigidity 
or  abstraction  which  creates  a  separation  from  friends  and 
fellow -creatures.  This  would  appear  from  the  Gospel 
narrative  itself.  Joseph  was  evidently  a  well-known 
character  in.  Nazareth.  .All  sorts  of  persons  were  familiar 
with  him.  They  had  often  greeted  and  conversed  with 

396  ST.    JOSEPH. 

him.  They  knew,  as  we  may  Bay,  what  manner  of  man 
he  was.  They  had  had  dealings  with  him  in  his  trade  ; 
he  had  worked  for  them,  and,  we  may  be  sure,  had  done 
his  work  well,  and  at  a  generously  moderate  price.  "  Is 
not  this  the  son  of  the  carpenter  ?  "  they  said,  speaking 
of  Jesus ;  the  carpenter  with  whom  they  were  all  well 
acquainted.  Had  there  been  anything  stiff  and  repellent 
in  the  father's  demeanour  or  strange  and  forbidding  in 
his  silence,  something  probably  would  have  been  alleged 
in  disparagement  of  the  Son.  But  there  was  nothing  in 
our  Lord's  beautiful  ways,  His  ease  of  speech  and  winning 
kindness,  which  surprised  them.  All  this,  we  may 
conceive,  was  natural  and  to  be  expected  in  the  son  of 
a  man  who  had  been  so  trusted,  so  loved,  and  so  admired 
in  Nazareth  and  its  surroundings.  What  surprised  and 
irritated  them  in  Jesus  were  the  divine  claims  and  assump- 
tions of  one  who  was,  as  they  thought,  the  son  of  the 
carpenter,  their  fellow-townsman,  with  whom  they  had 
held  familiar  intercourse.  Joseph,  then,  we  cannot 
doubt,  was  all  that  is  human,  acceptable,  sympathetic, 
and  attractive ;  known  no  less  for  his  geniality  and 
kindness  than  for  his  integrity  and  conscientious  work, 
perhaps  also  for  its  singular  excellence ;  and  it  is  observ- 
able that  he  is  spoken  of,  not  simply  as  a  carpenter,  but 
as  "the  carpenter,"  as  though  to  mention  his  trade  was 
to  name  the  man. 

Again,  as  to  his  silence  in  particular  :  although  we  ci 
never  be  persuaded  that  Joseph  was  not  sparing  of 
words,  it  nowise  follows  (as  we  have  already  suggest 
that  he  was  any  the  less  loved  on  that  account.     Peoj 
are  not  loved  for  their  much  speaking,  but  for  speech 
season — "  a   word  in   season  is  most  excellent,"  1 — i 
often  all  the  better  loved  because  they  know  how  to 
silent  and  to  listen  to  others  rather  than  indulge  the 
own  loquacity.     There  is  a  silence  which  says  much,  and 
1  "Sermo  opportunus  est  optimus."    Prov.  xv.  23. 


HIS   LOVE    AND   LIFE    OF   BLISS.  397 

much  that  is  far  more  pleasing  and  engaging  than  speech 
would  be;  a  charitable,  sympathetic,  and  expressive 
silence ;  and  such,  we  may  be  sure,  was  Joseph's.  It 
was  a  silence  which  inspired  a  loving  reverence  and  con- 
fidence, which  never  made  him  difficult  of  access,  or 
which  hung  around  him  a  heavy  and  unpleasant  garb  of 

The  life  of  bliss,  therefore,  all  interior,  which  Joseph 
led  on  earth  no  more  hindered  his  sweet  companionship 
with  friends  than  the  vision  of  God  interfered  with  that 
of  the  gracious  angel,  Eaphael,  when  journeying  with 
Tobias,  towards  whom  he  conducted  himself  during  their 
association,  not  with  the  estrangement  and  reserve  of  some 
superior  being,  but  with  a  marvellous  kindness  and 
brotherly  affection,  so  that,  until  he  revealed  himself,  the 
young  man  had  no  suspicion  that  he  was  not  what  he 
seemed.  Or,  to  use  a  still  higher,  but  in  some  respects  a 
more  appropriate  comparison,  that  life  of  exalted  bliss 
which  Joseph  inwardly  led  took  away  none  of  the  exterior 
charms  of  his  human  intercourse,  any  more — with  rever- 
ence we  say  it — than  the  Divine  Nature  in  Jesus,  his 
Foster-Son,  whom  he  so  closely  resembled,  detracted  from 
the  loveliness  and  lovableness  of  His  perfect  Human 
Nature.  Nay,  rather,  the  supernatural  and  the  divine 
would  indefinitely  enhance  the  beauty  and  attractive- 
ness of  the  natural  and  the  human. 

(  398  ) 


HOLY  Scripture  does  not  'record  the  death  of  Joseph. 
It  simply  ceases  to  mention  him.  That  he  died 
before  Jesus  entered,  at  thirty  years  of  age,  on  His  public 
ministry,  has  certainly  been  by  far  the  most  general 
opinion,  and  there  appear  to  be  strong  reasons  to  render 
it  the  most  probable.  Yet  there  are  persons — and 
persons  of  erudition  too — who  entertain  the  opinion  that 
he  may  even  have  lived  until  after  the  marriage-feast  of 
Cana.  We  must  own  to  perceiving  no  valid  reason  that 
can  be  advanced  in  support  of  this  view,  while  there  seem  - 
to  be  many  against  it.  First  and  foremost,  we  should  be 
inclined  to  place  the  general  belief  or,  at  the  least, 
persuasion  of  the  great  body  of  the  faithful,  never  to  be 
lightly  regarded,  who  certainly  hold  that  Jesus  did  not 
begin  His  public  life  until  His  dear  foster-father  had  died 
the  death  of  the  just,  died  "  in  the  arms  of  Jesus  and 
Mary,"  as  the  Litany  of  St.  Joseph  expresses  it.  A 
second  strong  reason  for  sharing  this  passive  traditional 
view,  as  it  may  be  called,  is  that  when  the  time  for  the 
close  of  the  Hidden  Life  had  arrived,  during  which  Jesus 
had  been  subject  to  His  parents,  Joseph's  work  would 
appear  to  have  been  finished  and  his  mission  ended. 
Mary  had  still  a  work  to  do  on  earth,  but  Joseph  had 
not ;  the  office  for  which  he  was  chosen  seems  now  to 
have  been  completed.  Moreover,  we  cannot  imagine 
Jesus  permanently  leaving  the  house  at  Nazareth  while 
Joseph  lived ;  for,  evidently,  He  removed  thence  when 

HIS   DEATH.  399 

His  public  life  began,  and,  so  far  as  He  had  henceforth 
any  fixed  abode,  dwelt  at  Capharnaum,  His  mother 
accompanying  Him  thither.  She  is  mentioned  from 
time  to  time,  and  is  an  especially  prominent  figure  at  the 
marriage-feast  at  Cana  in  Galilee,  where  her  Divine  Son 
worked  His  first  public  miracle  at  her  request.  Is  it 
conceivable  that,  if  Joseph  had  still  been  living,  he  should 
have  been  passed  over  in  marked  silence  ?  Marked,  we 
say,  because  the  invitation  given  to  the  disciples  of  Jesus 
is  mentioned  as  well  as  His  own,  and  the  presence  of  His 
mother.  If  Joseph's  death  had  not  been  previously  re- 
corded, no  more  is  it  recorded  at  any  subsequent  time ; 
any  argument  founded  on  the  omission  is,  therefore, 
worthless.  No ;  Joseph,  we  believe,  had  gone,  and  his 
unnoticed  departure  is  quite  in  accordance  with  all  that 
had  preceded  concerning  him.  He  passes  out  of  sight 
when  he  had  accomplished  the  office  with  which  he  had 
been  intrusted.1 

During  the  years  that  followed  the  return  to  Nazareth 
Joseph  had  beheld  and,  like  Mary,  must  have  inwardly 
pondered  the  increasing  glory  of  the  God-Man.  "  Jesus,5' 
says  the  Evangelist,  "  advanced  in  age  and  wisdom,  and 
in  grace  with  God  and  men."  2  "  Grace  with  men  "  can 
only  mean  "favour".  What  wonder  if  Jesus  found 
favour  with  men  in  those  days  ?  The  human  heart  is 
not  so  corrupt  that  it  cannot  admire  and  value  what  is 
lovely  and  lovable.  And  truly  lovely  and  lovable  was 
the  "  Son  of  the  Carpenter".  He  set  before  His  neigh- 
bours an  example,  always  sure  to  captivate  and  win 
approval,  of  reverence  and  duty  to  His  parents  ;  He  was 
kind,  compassionate,  mild,  gentle ;  as  yet  He  did  and 

1  It  is  only  just  to  state  that  St.  Bonaventura  certainly  seems  to 
hold  that  Joseph's  life  was  prolonged  until  after  the  beginning  of 
the  public  ministry,  an  opinion  which  Isolano  must  have  shared, 
since  he  believed  that  Jesus  baptised  Joseph  as  well  as  His  Blessed 

2  St.  Luke  ii.  52.    i 

400  ST.    JOSEPH. 

said  nothing  to  wound  their  pride  or  offend  their  self- 
love.  He  had  not  begun  to  reprove,  or  rebuke,  or  speak 
with  authority,  and  so  He  found  grace  in  their  eyes.  It 
was  not  to  last.  The  expression  of  advancing  in  grace 
with  God,  whether  the  word  be  understood  here  also  as 
signifying  favour,  or  be  taken  in  the  sense  of  an  advance 
in  grace  in  the  usual  acceptance  of  the  term,  presents  the 
same  mystery  as  do  some  other  few  passages  of  a  similar 
character.  The  mystery  and  difficulty  spring  from  the 
assumption  of  a  human  nature  by  the  Eternal  Son,  a 
nature  henceforth  as  completely  His  own  as  was  His 
Divine  Nature.  In  the  favour  of  the  Eternal  Father  it  was 
not  possible  that  this  Divine  Son,  made  Man,  could  ad- 
vance. From  the  first  He  was  His  Beloved  Son  in  whom  He 
was  well  pleased,  and  He  had  also  the  plenitude  of  grace 
from  the  first  moment  of  His  conception.  As,  however, 
it  pleased  our  Lord  not  to  become  incarnate  at  the  full 
age  of  man,  but  to  pass  through  the  stages  of  infancy, 
childhood,  and  adolescence,  so  also  He  willed  to  accommo- 
date the  manifestation  of  His  grace,  wisdom,  and  power 
to  the  natural  development  to  which  He  had  subjected 
Himself.  They  underwent  no  real  increase;  but  the 
proportion  in  which  it  behoved  Him  to  manifest  them  in 
connection  with  His  natural  growth  was  capable  of  in- 
crease; and  it  is  in  this  sense  that  it  was  true  to  say 
that  He  advanced  in  wisdom  and  in  grace.  And  the 
same  must  be  understood  of  the  grace,  or  favour,  of  His 
Eternal  Father,  which  was  openly  manifested  at  its 
appointed  times  and  seasons,  and  in  proportion  to  the 
exterior  manifestation  of  grace  in  Jesus.  The  first  spe 
instance  recorded  is  when  He  was  baptised  by  Jo' 
"  Heaven  was  opened,  and  the  Holy  Ghost  descended  i 
a  bodily  shape  as  a  dove  upon  Him,  and  a  voice  c 
from  Heaven :  Thou  art  My  Beloved  Son,  in  Thee  I 
well  pleased."  l  'The  Evangelist  then,  after  giving 
i  St.  Luke  iii.  21,  22. 

HIS   DEATH.  401 

age  and  genealogy,  proceeds :  "  And  Jesus,  being  full  of 
the  Holy  Ghost,  returned  from  the  Jordan,  and  was  led 
by  the  Spirit  into  the  desert".1  St.  Matthew,  in  like 
manner,  after  recounting  the  baptism  of  Jesus,  says: 
"Then  Jesus  was  led  by  the  Spirit  into  the  desert";2 
and  St.  Mark,  in  his  parallel  account,  uses  these  remark- 
able words  :  "  And  immediately  the  Spirit  drove  Him  out 
into  the  desert  ".3  But  was  not  Jesus  full  of  the  Holy 
Ghost  before  His  baptism ;  and  had  He  not  always  been 
led  by  the  Spirit  of  God?  Most  true,  indeed;  but  it 
would  appear  that  He  now  received  for  manifestation  the 
grace  of  His  mission,  which  was  about  to  begin,  and  the 
public  sanction,  so  to  say,  and  declaration  of  the  favour 
with  which  His  Eternal  Father  regarded  Him. 

But  that  which  Jesus  could  not  Himself  receive,  a  real 
increase  of  grace  and  wisdom,  was  imparted  in  abundance 
to  Mary  and  Joseph,  who  for  so  many  years  drew  from 
the  fountain  of  all  grace  and  sweetness,  and  drank  of 
that  water  which  He  was  afterwards  to  promise  to  the 
Samaritan  woman,  of  which  whoso  drinks  he  shall  never 
thirst  again.4     That  Mary,  from  the  companionship  of 
her  Son,  and  through  her  faithful  co-operation,  was  con- 
tinually receiving  an  increase  in  grace  and  in  all  spiritual 
gifts  is  the  general  teaching  of  the  Fathers  of  the  Church ; 
and  that,   next  to  her,  Joseph  derived  similar  fruit  we 
cannot  doubt.     God  had  predestined  him  to  partake  of 
these  blessings,  and  had  therefore  given  him  the  name  of 
Joseph,  which  signifies  increase,  a  name  most  appropriate 
to  him  (as  Albert  the  Great  holds),  who  in  virtue,  as 
regarded  himself,  his  neighbour,  and  God,  received  such 
sublime  augmentation.5     And,  if  Joseph  profited  much 
in  the  School  of  Uncreated  Wisdom — that  is,  Jesus, — 
he  also  must  have  derived  much  light  from  the  Seat  of 
Wisdom— that  is,  Mary.     If  Mary,  like  a  brilliant  lamp, 

1  St.  Luke  iv.  1.  2  Chap.  iv.  1.  3  Chap.  i.  12. 

4  St  John  iv.  13.  5  Lib.  Super  Missus  cst. 


402  ST.    JOSEPH. 

illuminated  the  whole  Church  (as  the  same  doctor 
affirms),1  how  much  more  must  she  have  enlightened  her 
most  beloved  spouse,  Joseph  I  The  learned  Cartagena2 
says  that  Joseph  penetrated  with  clearest  cognition  the 
most  hidden  secrets  of  the  heart  of  Mary,  which  was  the 
depository  of  the  secrets  of  God.  And,  along  with  his 
increase  in  wisdom,  his  increase  in  grace  proceeded.  If, 
as  the  Scripture  says,  "  the  path  of  the  just,  as  a  shining 
light,  goeth forwards,  and  increaseth  even  to  perfect  day,"3 
what  must  have  been  the  meridian  splendour  of  this  pre- 
eminently just  man,  who  received  in  such  abundance  the 
light  of  grace  from  the  Author  of  grace  Himself,  and 
from  her  who  is  the  treasury  and  channel  of  all  graces ! 
What  merits  and  what  copious  graces  adorned  his  holy 
soul  during  his  whole  life  !  says  an  excellent  doctor, 
Matthias  Navseus  ;  and,  seeing  (as  he  adds)  that  after  his 
virginal  marriage  he,  next  to  Mary,  was  nearest  to  the 
Principle  and  Source  of  all  grace,  it  is  to  be  believed 
(according  to  the  doctrine  of  St.  Thomas)  that,  next  to 
her,  he  had  a  larger  participation  thereof  than  all  other 

But  Joseph  was  also  advancing  in  age,  and  it  is 
generally  supposed  that  towards  the  close  of  his  days  .he 
suffered  much  from  the  infirmities  of  declining  years  and 
from  enfeebled  strength.  That  he  suffered  we  need  not 
doubt,  but  there  seems  reason  to  question  the  opinion 
that  he  sank  under  the  natural  effects  of  old  age,  and 
with  a  frame  worn  out  by  constant  labour.  A  tradition 
has  been  preserved  in  the  Eastern  Churches,  which 
always  cherished  much  devotion  to  our  saint,  that  Joseph 
never  underwent  any  natural  decay  of  strength.  This 
tradition  was  committed  to  writing  in  an  ancient  legend, 
as  Isolano  asserts,  and  was  translated  from  Hebrew  into 
Latin  in  the  year  1340.  It  states  that,  although  Joseph 

1  Lib.  Super  Missus  est.         2  Lib.  iv.  Horn.  ix.        3  Prov.  iv.  18. 
4  Encom.  in  S.  Joseph,  Orat.  i. 

HIS    DEATH.  403 

grew  old  in  years,  the  strength  of  his  body  never 
diminished,  nor  was  his  eyesight  weakened ;  not  a  tooth 
in  his  mouth  had  decayed,  nor  had  his  memory  failed 
him  in  the  least,  but  he  retained  all  his  powers,  and 
the  unimpaired  vigour  of  his  limbs,  even  as  in  the  days  of 
his  youth.1  Nor  does  this  seem  incredible;  nay,  we  might 
make  bold  to  say  that  it  is  highly  probable.  Moses, 
who  brought  the  children  of  Israel  out  of  the  land  of 
Egypt,  died  at  the  age  of  a  hundred  and  twenty  years, 
and  he  would  not  have  died  even  then  except  that  God 
would  not  permit  him  to  bring  the  people  into  the 
promised  land  on  account  of  his  one  act  of  dis- 
obedience when  he  struck  the  rock:2  "And  Moses,  the 
servant  of  the  Lord  died  there,  in  the  land  of  Moab, 
by  the  command  of  the  Lord ;  and  He  buried  him  in  the 
valley  of  the  land  of  Moab  over  against  Phogor ;  and  no 
man  hath  known  of  his  sepulchre  until  this  present  day". 
Moses  died,  not  of  natural  decay,  but  by  the  command  of 
the  Lord;  for  we  are  expressly  told,  "his  eye  was  not 
dim,  neither  were  his  teeth  moved  ".3  Is  it,  therefore, 
surprising  to  learn  that  he  who  brought,  not  Israel,  but 

1  Isolano,  torn.  ii.  par.  iv.  cap.  ix.  2  Numbers  x±.  11,  12. 

3  Deut.   xxxiv.   5-7.      We   entertain  a  strong    persuasion    that 

nothing  is  particularly  recorded  in  Scripture  without  an  object. 

Wherefore,   then,    this   special  mention  of    the  perfect    state  of 

Moses's  body  when  he  died,  not  from  any  natural  cause,  but  by  the 

command  of  the  Lord,  and  was  buried  by  Him  ?     There  must  be 

some  mystery  underlying  this  obscurely  related  event,  especially 

as  in  St.  Jude's  Epistle  (v.  9)  allusion  is  made  to  that  contention 

between  the  devil  and  the  .Archangel  Michael  about  the  body  of 

Moses  which  we  have  had  occasion  to  mention.     His  body,  we  may 

well  believe,  remained  entire  and  untouched  by  corruption,  as  have 

the  bodies  of  many  saints ;  and  God,  willing  thus  to  preserve  it, 

;kept  it  in  concealment  under  angelic  guardianship,  almost,  we 

i  might  say,  as  if  He  designed  to  make  some  further  use  of  the 

i  mortal  frame  of  the  great  lawgiver.     Would  it  be  rash  to  suppose 

|  that  this  design  was  connected  with  his  appearance  on  Mount 

I  Thabor  at  our  Lord's  Transfiguration,  in  company  with  Elias,  who 

certainly  was  still  in  the  body :  "  And  behold  two  men  were  talking 

with  Him.     And  they  were  Moses  and  Elias"  (St.  Luke  ix.  30)? 

Both  are  described,  in  similar  terms,  as  "  men  ". 

404  ST.    JOSEPH. 

the  Lord  of  Israel,  out  of  the  land  of  Egypt  should  have 
enjoyed  the  same  immunity?  It  does  not  follow  that 
Joseph  had  not  felt  the  fatigues  and  sufferings  of  his 
laborious  life,  fatigues  and  sufferings  all  endured